Close encounters with buildings

Jan Gehl, Lotte Johansen Kaefer & Solvejg Reigstad

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Gehl, J. , Kaefer, L. J. & Reigstad, S. (1). Close encounters with buildings. URBAN DESIGN International, 11(1), 29–47.

Facades , Ground Floors , Interaction , People , Public Space

What we have are closed, self-absorbed buildings. What we would like to have is open, versatile, interesting and safe cities. The challenge is how to incorporate large buildings in cities where people have the same small stature and slow pace they had hundreds of years ago. There is now a considerable confusion in the gap between large and small scales and between ‘quick’ and ‘slow’ architecture. Ground floor facades provide an important link between these scales and between buildings and people. For public space and buildings to be treated as a whole, the ground floor facades must have a special and welcoming design. This good, close encounter architecture is vital for good cities.

Main finding
The authors contend that good close encounter architecture is vital for good cities. The articles suggests that when new buildings are planted in places people frequent, the buildings must learn to make meaningful conversation with city spaces and the people in them, the buildings and city spaces must be seen and treated as a unified being that breathes as one, and ground floors must have a uniquely detailed and welcoming design in keeping with tradition and good sensory arguments.

Description of method used in the article
Case studies that provide information about many different aspects of city streets, daily urban life in active shopping streets, the attractiveness of the various shops, transparency, design, facade details, and the usefulness of having residences in commercial streets.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Walking or Rolling
Case Study
Physical types
Sidewalks Streets