The City of Sydney has awarded Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl the key to the city.
Gehl, founder of Gehl Architects, is the second Dane to be awarded the key to the City of Sydney. The first was Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon who received the honour in 1998.
The key to the city is the highest honour a city can give to an individual or organization, and recognizes a major contribution to furthering the ideals of a city or an outstanding achievement at international level.
Gehl was recognized for his contribution to Sustainable Sydney 2030, a long-term strategy outlining goals to make Sydney a greener, more liveable and connected city.
Gehl developed a masterplan to pedestrianize George Street and bring inner-city laneways to life to make Sydney a walking and cycling-friendly destination.
In his 2007 study of Sydney’s public domain titled Public Spaces Public Life, Gehl proposed transforming George Street into a “great organizing spine” for the city, with a light rail running from Central to Circular Quay railway stations and laneways and public plazas in between.
Lord mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said Gehl had made an enormous contribution to the city.
“This year marks a decade since we first engaged Jan and his team to draw on their vast international experience to look at both the problems and potential of Sydney’s streets and public spaces,” Moore said.
“Since then, we’ve implemented many of his recommendations, from simple initiatives that make our streets more liveable – like upgrading street furniture and planting more trees – to major projects currently underway, including the transformation of George Street and laneways throughout the city centre.”
Gehl said, “Sydney has always been a great city, but for too long it put cars before people. Together, Gehl Architects and the city council under lord mayor Clover Moore developed a plan to unlock Sydney’s outstanding potential by making it a city for people, with walkable streets, great public spaces and a vibrant, green heart.”
“I am so pleased to see how the City has continued to embrace this vision over the last decade, with a pedestrianized George Street under construction, a thriving laneway culture, and more trees, parks and open spaces than ever before.”
Gehl has also prepared Public Spaces and Public Life reports for other Australian cities including Perth, Adelaide and Hobart.
Gehl is an honorary fellow of architectural institutes in seven countries and has been awarded numerous architectural, planning and urban design awards. He has also published a number of books in multiple languages.
He was previously a professor of urban design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Architecture and has taught at universities in Australia and around the world.
Gehl will participate in an MTalk at MPavilion on Friday 10 February 2017 with Rob Adams, director of city design and projects at the City of Melbourne, and Monica Barone, CEO of the City of Sydney.
Gehl will discuss his interest in planning cities for people and Adams and Barone will place these concepts in an Australian context.