Jan Gehl returns to Sydney to see his vision for the city realized

Danish architect and urbanist Jan Gehl, of Gehl Architects, has returned to Sydney, 16 years after submitting his vision for transforming the city into a greener and more livable metropolis.

Gehl was commissioned by the City of Sydney in 2007 to undertake a study – Public Spaces Public Life Sydney – that would form the basis for the city’s long-term strategic plan, Sustainable Sydney 2030. Gehl’s recommendations resulted in the revitalization of George Street, the establishment of the Sydney Light Rail through the CBD and 20,000 square metres of open communal space.

“A good city is like a good party – people stay longer than really necessary because they are enjoying themselves,” Gehl said.

“After being invaded by cars and traffic for 50 years we’re now seeing many examples of cities being reconquered for people. Sydney is an example of this, where the transformation of George Street is a great change.”

Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore with architect Jan Gehl on the Light Rail.


Courtesy Clover Moore

In 2017, Gehl was presented with a Key to the City of Sydney by lord mayor Clover Moore, following in the footsteps of his fellow Danish predecessor Jorn Utzon. The key to the city is the highest honour a city can present an individual or organization.

During Gehl’s latest visit, Moore reiterated just how vital his contribution to the Sydney has been, calling it “unparalleled.”

“We have come a long way since 2007 when Jan Gehl said Sydney had turned its back on the harbour, and that it was at breaking point, unable to cope with traffic volumes and gradually being choked in fumes and noise. Back then I was in my first term as lord mayor and Sydney had had a history of ad hoc interventions rather than considered long-term planning. I wanted to change that and transform Sydney with a vision and strategy to achieve it,” Moore said.

“When we saw Public Spaces and Public Life, featuring George Street as a 2.5 kilometre pedestrian boulevard with light rail as its centrepiece and three large civic squares, pedestrian and cycling networks, green connections and revitalised laneways, I knew we had our vision.

“Once a noisy, polluted traffic jam, Sydney’s central spine is now the people-friendly, tree-lined boulevard you’d expect in an international city.”

Gehl reviewed and updated Public Spaces and Public Life Sydney in 2020, while the City of Sydney has extended its strategic Sustainable Sydney 2030 initiative out until 2050, with plans for a public square at Central Station and another overlooking the harbour at Circular Quay.

Source: Architecture - architectureau

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