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Volunteers sought for public space-public life survey to identify opportunities to reach public space goals

SOMERVILLE – Gehl Studio, the U.S.-based arm of the internationally renowned design firm Gehl Architects, has been hired by the City of Somerville to advance its work toward creating 125 new acres of public open space. Gehl Studio will help identify opportunities and techniques to create new public space and enrich public life across the city.

A field survey will be conducted in late May, and the City invites residents, students from local universities, and design professionals to assist in the survey. Volunteers will learn tools for measuring the quality of public space and public life alongside representatives from Gehl Studio. For more information about participating in this public life research, contact Senior Planner Dan Bartman at or call 617-625-6600 ext. 2543.

Gehl Architects was founded in 2007 by Danish architect Jan Gehl and Helle Søholt. The practice is based on design principles refined by Gehl and his wife, psychologist Ingrid Mundt, over 40 years of studying the relationship between the built environment and people's quality of life. Gehl has pioneered a data-driven approach known as “Public Space-Public Life” research designed to provide recommendations on ways to improve the livability of a city or neighborhood by addressing the relationship between public spaces and how they are used by people.

“We have always thought creatively about the challenges we face together as a community and we have to do the same for our ambitious public space goals if we are to become the kind of city we want to be,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Partnering with Gehl Studio is a tremendous opportunity to bring the foremost minds on public spaces to bear upon this challenge, identify opportunities we may be overlooking, and involve our community in developing innovative ways for reaching our collective goals.”

In January of 2014, the City partnered with the New England chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism to provide a free screening of The Human Scale, a film featuring the work of Gehl Architects around the globe. The documentary explores what happens when we use a people-centered approach as the focus of city design and attracted a crowd of more than 900 people to the Somerville Theatre, one of the largest crowds to see the film at the time.

Gehl Studio is currently working on projects in over 10 cities ranging from San Francisco and New York to Lexington, KY, Charlotte, Miami, Philadelphia and now Somerville. Their unique approach has inspired hundreds of cities around the world based on decades of work in creating highly walkable streets, expanding and improving cycling infrastructure, and the reorganization of parks, squares, and other public spaces—work that has helped Copenhagen transform itself into the world’s happiest city.  

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