Life Between Buildings by L. Dennis Burns, CAPP
I have been doing my homework in preparation for the upcoming IPI Conference in Las Vegas. Josh Kavanagh, CAPP, and I are developing a presentation exploring the unique opportunities those of us in the parking and transportation industries have to leverage opportunities inherent in owning our customer’s first and last impression of our communities. Our presentation will explore how we can leverage these opportunities to create competitive advantage for the communities we serve.
For my part, I have embarked on a bit of a literary review of several interesting books that are either directly or at least tangentially related to this area. One of these tangentially related books is a classic planning book originally published in the 1970s, Life Between Buildings, by the venerable planner Jan Gehl.
This fascinating book explores the importance of creating high-quality public spaces as our urban environments continue to densify and evolve. Gehl focuses on the basics of human interaction and the need for contact between people. He then shows how planning and design can dramatically affect the nature and character of public spaces and communities as a whole. He begins to knit together planning concepts such as social structure, physical structure, transition zones, etc., and links them to fascinating discussions about senses and communications related to dimensional space and how we interact with those spaces.
At a PIPTA conference held in Tacoma, Wash., a few years ago, we had the opportunity to hear a colleague of Mr. Gehl’s, Helle Soholt (who happened to be visiting Seattle at the time), speak on “Mobility-Oriented Design.” This interesting presentation discussed the need to move beyond merely planning for transport and safety and toward creating spaces that promote quality of life in multiple dimensions by putting people at the center of the planning process.
It never fails to amaze me how parking connects to so many varied and interesting dimensions of related disciplines such as planning, economic development, and even (or perhaps especially) the social sciences. Keeping our focus on people-centric planning and operations is an important key to success in all our varied endeavors.