Celebrated documentary on Danish urban designer Jan Gehl
reinforces Somerville’s commitment to planning for a livable city
SOMERVILLE – Leading-edge urban
designer Jan Gehl and like-minded designers, city planners, and urban activists are revolutionizing urban places around the world, and everyone is invited to take an up close look at their work at a special free community screening of the celebrated documentary The Human Scale at the Somerville Theatre on Jan. 30, which will include an introduction by Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. The City of Somerville is partnering with the New England Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNUNE) for the free screening, which takes place at the Somerville Theatre from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 30, free of charge.

The Human Scale, directed by Andreas Dalsgaard, questions our assumptions about modern cities, exploring what happens when we use a people-centered approach as the focus of city design. For forty years Jan Gehl has systematically studied human behavior in cities: how human beings use the streets, how they walk, see, rest, meet, and interact. Gehl’s work is statistically rigorous, but is always rooted in human experience. For instance: How many people use a street in a 24-hour period? How many are pedestrians? How many are driving cars or riding bicylces? How much of the street space are the various groups allowed to use? Is this street performing well for all its users? The film also explores topics consistent with City of Somerville goals, including fostering happiness and quality of life among constituents.

“In Somerville, our core value is to make the city a great place to live, work, play and raise a family”, said Mayor Curtatone. “Somerville residents often use terms like ‘human scale’ and ‘personal’ to describe both our urban fabric and our social fabric. These values are reflected in our award-winning, grassroots SomerVision plan for the future, and communities around the world are using similar strategies because of designers like Jan Gehl.”

Jan Gehl conducted his first research in Italy and used his observations to transform the planning of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, over the past 40 years. His ideas inspired the creation of highly walkable streets, the expansion and improvement of cycling infrastructure, and the reorganization of parks, squares and other public spaces throughout Copenhagen and across the Nordic region. Today, cities like New York, Melbourne, Christchurch, and Somerville are all taking notice of Gehl’s work, which helped Copenhagen transform itself into the world’s happiest city.

“I’m proud to say that Somerville is one of the only cities in North America that systematically measures residents’ happiness,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Our research has shown that small changes in the built environment can make a huge difference, especially if they promote walking, interacting with neighbors, working or shopping locally. We are using that research to prioritize projects and improvements in neighborhoods that need them most. I’m excited that Somerville residents will have an opportunity to see this important film for free, and I want to thank Ian Judge and his team at the Somerville Theatre, as well as the New England Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism.”

Gehl Architects is an urban research and design consultancy focused on the relationship between the built environment and people’s quality of life. They address global trends with a people-focused approach, utilizing empirical analysis to understand how the built environment can promote human flourishing. They apply this analysis to strategic planning and human-centered design to empower citizens, decision makers, company leaders, and organizations. The work of Gehl Architects is based on Jan Gehl’s five decades of extensive research on life in public spaces. Their research continues to deal with the many factors that influence public life and public space and how people use it.

Join us Jan. 30, at the Somerville Theatre for The Human Scale. For tickets, visit

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