2019 Collaborative Achievement Award Recipient
The Collaborative Achievement Award recognizes the excellence that results when architects work with those from outside the profession to improve the spaces where people live and work.
In his seminal book Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space, Jan Gehl, Hon. FAIA, challenged his readers to contemplate what they may often take for granted in open public spaces. The ideas he espoused in that volume—and in his work as an architect and planner—have for more than 50 years greatly shaped conversations about healthy, livable cities. A quiet activist, Gehl has equipped the profession with the tools it needs to continuously support society’s democratic ideals.
An honorary fellow of many of the world’s foremost architecture organizations, including the AIA, Gehl began his career as an architect restoring medieval churches in his native Denmark. In 1971, when Life Between Buildings was first published, Gehl laid out the incremental steps cities can take to dramatically improve their public spaces. The book has since been translated into 35 languages and continues to occupy the bookshelves of countless design professionals.
In Copenhagen, where Gehl was born and continues to work, he studied the effect of removing cars from the city’s celebrated Strøget street beginning in 1962. In addition to perpetuating the rumor that he was behind the ban, his studies have convinced cities around the world to take similar action. His influence continues to shape Copenhagen, and during the celebration of the 850th anniversary of its founding the city named Gehl one of the 10 people who have had the greatest impact on the evolution of the city.
Through Gehl Architects, which he founded in 2001 and since 2011 has remained a senior adviser, Gehl and his team have led public life studies in 16 countries in Europe, Africa, South America, and the United States. In Amman, Jordan, Gehl worked with local architects to create Ashrafieh Square in one of the most economically challenged sections of the city, which previously contained no public space for its people.
Gehl’s enthusiasm for cities is infectious, and his ability to uncover their essential characteristics is unique. The profession as a whole remains indebted to him for crafting a language and methodology for understanding public life that continues to resonate.