Life in today’s mega cities is both tantalizing and troublesome – and by the year 2050, the percentage of the world’s population living in cities will rise from 50 to 80%. Due this growth, the problems of loneliness, dwindling resources, climate change, economics and poor health are set to spiral. In the face of this adversity, Andreas M. Dalsgaard’s new film The Human Scale seeks to inspire a generation of city dwellers to demand better solutions and living environments.
Jan Gehl has studied human behavior in cities for 40 years. Andreas M. Dalsgaard’s beautiful cinematic tour of the world’s metropolises uses Gehl’s research to argue that putting people, instead of motor vehicles, at the centre of city planning could allow us to build intimate and inclusive environments that will mitigate many of the challenges city dwellers face today.
The documentary visits dynamic urban environments such as Dhaka’s clogged main roads (where rickshaws are banned), pedestrianization initiatives and impromptu happenings in New York, Melbourne’s suburban sprawl, and post earthquake reconstruction in Christchurch to explore the problems, challenges and possible outcomes for urban development. The human cityscapes are a delight to watch, and the interviews with city officials, planners and architects are concise and keep the pace engaging.
Gehl’s utopian vision was developed from initial studies on ‘the spaces between buildings’ in Italy, and it later inspired the planning of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. The film asks ‘What is a happy life, and can a city make us happy?’ Most encouraging is the section on the reconstruction of Christchurch, where ordinary citizens are given a dominant voice in planning and opt for the human-scale Gehl model. Even with government steering the project, many people-supported limits and recommendations remain.
‘The Human Scale’ highlights how strongly our environment shapes our well-being and it’s sure to inspire pedestrians, bike riders and public-space proponents everywhere.