The Human Scale
Influential Danish architect Jan Gehl argues that we can build cities in a way which takes human needs for inclusion and intimacy into account.
Directed by Andreas M. Dalsgaard
Produced by Signe Byrge Sorensen
Writer: Andreas M. Dalsgaard
Editor: Soren B. Ebbe
Music: Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Narrator: Andreas Dalsgaard
50% of the world's population lives in urban areas, by 2050 it will be 80%. Cities have become the primary human habitat. According to revolutionary Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl, if we are to make cities sustainable and livable for people we must re-imagine the very foundations of modern urban planning. Rather than examining buildings and urban structures themselves, Gehl and his team meticulously study the in-between spaces of urban life, the places where people meet, interact, live, and behave.
"Makes an excellent case for designing cities around people instead of automobiles."
Ronnie Scheib, Variety
How do the spaces that surround us enhance or disturb our interactions with others? How can we make our streets more accessible by foot or bike? Through his world acclaimed work, Gehl has been leading a revolution in urban planning that has been transforming cities worldwide. From the expanded pedestrian spaces in New York's Union Square, to Copenhagen's famed bike lanes, to the rebuilding of earthquake devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, Gehl's team bring real solutions that promise a more humanistic dimension to cities where people are not displaced by congested streets, skyscrapers, and the car-centric urbanism of the 1960s and '70s.
Stunningly photographed, THE HUMAN SCALE travels around the world to explore how Gehl and other like minded designers, city planners, and urban activists have begun to transform such cities as New York, Beijing, Christchurch, and London.
Grade Level: 8 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2014
Copyright Date: 2012
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-416-8
"The Human Scale illustrates the spread and value of Professor Gehl's ideas beyond his transformation of his hometown Copenhagen to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. As we need to double our urban capacity by 2050, we all should become students of the city. Through this film, Professor Gehl and his colleagues help teach us how to look at cities very carefully and to better understand how they work. The Human Scale is a terrific teaching tool for classes in city planning, urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture as well as for the broader public."
Frederick Steiner, Dean, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin, Author of Design for a Vulnerable Planet
"For decades, Jan Gehl's work has been at the forefront of urban design for conviviality and livability. The Human Scale updates the work of his firm in cities of the developed and developing world. It is a key resource for courses in urban studies and urban planning, bringing big problems and practical solutions to life."
Louise Chawla, Professor of Environmental Design, University of Colorado, Editor and Co-author, Growing Up in an Urbanizing World
"In an era when rapid urbanization is at the forefront of global economic, environmental, and political dialogue, this film reminds us that in addition to serving as engines of growth, cities are human habitats...This film compels its viewers to think carefully about the relationship between the built form of the city and the kind of social life it enables. If urban environments are our future homes, then this relationship, and the extent to which urban forms help to maximize human well-being, are surely among the key urban challenges that this century presents."
Anne M. Rademacher, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Environmental Studies, New York University, Author, Ecologies of Urbanism in India: Metropolitan Civility and Sustainability
"The Human Scale shows how seeing afresh the increasingly urban world through our own eyes unveils surprising commonalities in how cities mold basic human activities like walking, talking, and gawking. If the explosively growing cities of Asia, like Dhaka and Chongqing, face many of the same human challenges as rebuilding cities of the developed world, like Melbourne, Copenhagen, and Christchurch, a focus on the human scale might help us make the jump to see cities as part of a whole on the planetary scale."
Frederick Adler, Professor of Mathematics, Professor of Biology, University of Utah, Author of Urban Ecosystems: Ecological Principles for the Built Environment
"The Human Scale is an excellent tour of recent improvements in the urban scene in our attempt to recover from the insults of modernity, in particular the tyranny of motorcars. I know how difficult the struggle has been to create excellent public places in America and the people involved in this effort are true cultural heroes."
James Howard Kunstler, Author of The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape
"Vivid and compelling. This video would provide an apt opening for courses on urban anthropology or applied anthropology...Offers many departure points for discussing the role of anthropologists in policy making and the prospects for democratic processes in corporate-dominated nations and cities as well as those dominated by centralized planning. Another fertile ground would be the relationships between what people say versus what people do and how to incorporate these different fields of observation into analytical and planning processes...A useful addition to our teaching materials."
Draco Hill and Paul Durenberger, Anthropology News
"Highly recommended...The Human Scale is an excellent call for a new paradigm in urban design that will facilitate life in public places, rather than stifle it. Viewers might come away asking the question, 'What could be done to improve the quality of life in my own urban environment?'"
Melanie Clark, Texas Tech University, Educational Media Reviews Online
"The Human Scale reveals ideas adhering to human-centric, sustainable, and health-promoting principles. Optimistic and uplifting, The Human Scale is literally about building a better and brighter future, highly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review
"Andreas M. Dalsgaard's excellent urban-planning documentary should enthuse pedestrians, bike riders and public-space proponents everywhere...makes an excellent case for designing cities around people instead of automobiles."
Ronnie Scheib, Variety
"Four Stars! The Human Scale is a well designed, smartly shot and freshly intelligent look at the wide world of urban planning."
Daniel Walber, Nonfics
"Beautifully lensed, with a smart selection of test case cities under consideration, Dalsgaard's film is a compelling think piece."
Basil Tsiokos, whatnottodoc
"The global journey strongly enlivens the lesson; it's fascinating how alike and how different cities can be, and more fascinating to imagine what they may become."
David DeWitt, New York Times
"The doc is wonderful. The film is largely about the very encouraging (for me) reaction to our present situation. The think about encouraging happy accidents. To create common spaces. To find less disruptive ways of getting around. To bring us back together."
David Byrne, musician and bicycle enthusiast
Includes 4 short extras:
Life Back to the Streets Kristian Villadsen discusses the importance of the street as a public space.
Life from the Edge Camilla van Deurs discusses how public spaces can build understanding and compassion between people.
The Human Dimension in Planning Helle Soholt discusses how a human-centered approach to planning can address many of the problems facing cities.
Making Life Visible Jan Gehl discusses how the systematic observations of people can be used to plan cities that increase human satisfaction.
Also SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.
The film's website
The film's Facebook page
Awards and Festivals
Green Cross Award, Planete Doc, Poland
Child & Family Award, Aljazeera International Documentary Film Festival
Best Feature Documentary, Kinookus Film Festival, Croatia
Youth Award, Bergen International Film Festival
Hamptons International Film Festival
Sydney International Film Festival
Chicago European Union Film Festival
Traverse City Film Festival
Maine International Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Seattle International Film Festival
CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival
One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Romania
ELTE Documentary Film Festival of Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary
A Design Film Festival, Singapore
Nordische Filmwoche in der Urania, Austria
Trondheim International Film Festival, Norway
Ecofocus Film Festival
Hawaii International Film Festival
Architecture and the City Festival
Hawaii International Film Festival
Architecture & Design Film Festival
Salem Film Fest
International Green Culture Festival, Serbia
Migration and Refugees
Urban and Regional Planning
Is "sustainable cities" an oxymoron or can they be made to work?
The Barcelona Blueprint
Barcelona today is a model of urban planning that may prove sustainable.
The Suzuki Diaries: Future City
David and Sarika Suzuki explore urban innovations leading toward sustainability.
Where Am I?
Why are some of us good at finding our way, while others are not? The latest findings in spatial cognition research have multiple implications including for urban planning and design.
Edens Lost and Found
4-part series that highlights models for urban transformation in the effort to make Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Seattle into sustainable cities.
22-part series examining the effect of globalization on people and cities worldwide.
Community by Design
Good design of houses and neighborhoods builds community.
Maps with Teeth
Bioregional mapping by locals communicates a sense of place and regional identity.
Ways We Live
New models of community living and building in the US and Canada are featured.
We Are Not Ghosts
Detroiters are reinventing the old Motor City as a vibrant new self-sustaining and human-scaled city for a post industrial world.
A vivid portrait of Detroit, America's first major post-industrial city, as it struggles to deal with the consequences of a broken economic system.
The slums of Mumbai are an important microcosm of how slums are developing around the world.
Designing A Great Neighborhood
A model co-housing project, where future residents participate in the design of their own neighborhood.
The latest in energy saving technology and good design.
The Suzuki Diaries: Sustainability in Action
David Suzuki and daughter Sarika travel to Europe to visit inspiring people and projects that give hope for a sustainable future.