Pedestrianized Landscapes Embracing The People

Pedestrianized Landscapes Embracing The People

Ever since the wheel was invented, it has taken precedence over foot traffic. Wheeled vehicles—particularly motorized ones—rule the road and shape our public spaces. In fact, when you think of the word city, what comes to mind? Pedestrianized Landscapes or… Traffic. Traffic jams. And lots of people. For the most part, our cities have evolved into a snarl of vehicles, jockeying bumper to bumper and competing with swarms of sidewalk hoppers. We could blame it on a number of factors, from the spread of suburbia to the scarcity of public transportation. But no matter how we look at it, one battle will always surface: man vs. machine. Urban designers are becoming increasingly aware of the difficulties of trying to reconcile pedestrians with traffic. Many cities are developing methods to remove heavy traffic from their centers and instead present those spaces as points of accessibility and human interaction. Pedestrianized Landscapes

"Creative Commons Amagertorv - Strøget". Source Axel Kuhlmann, licensed under CC 2.0

“Creative Commons Amagertorv – Strøget”. Source Axel Kuhlmann, licensed under CC 2.0

Copenhagen, Denmark, is one city that has made a switch toward becoming pedestrian friendly.   Beginning in 1962, city officials shifted the focus from an optimized vehicular flow and implemented pedestrian initiatives, with the ultimate goal of creating a balance between traffic areas and pedestrian thoroughfares. While many cities experience booming growth followed by the polarization of vehicle traffic and traffic-on-foot, the foresight of Copenhagen’s city planners rescued it from a similar fate.
"Creative Commons BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group - SUK - Superkilen Park". Source Forgemind ArchiMedia, licensed under CC 2.0

“Creative Commons BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group – SUK – Superkilen Park, Copenhagen, Denmark”. Source Forgemind ArchiMedia, licensed under CC 2.0

Today, approximately 37 percent of the people who work in the city use bicycles as their mode of transportation.  In more than 100 locations, bicycles may be borrowed for a cost of around $2.50 and returned when no longer needed–for a refund. Bicycle lanes were added and traffic speeds reduced to promote a more human-friendly city. Many of Copenhagen’s streets were converted into pedestrian-only areas that have encouraged citizens and tourists to park their cars.
"Creative Commons A Public bicycles in Frederikshavn". Wikimedia Commons user Heb, licensed under CC 3.0

“Creative Commons A Public bicycles in Frederikshavn”. Wikimedia Commons user Heb, licensed under CC 3.0

With fewer vehicles on the streets, large parking areas were converted into relaxing public squares, increasing the city’s charm. Copenhagen now boasts more than 100,000 square meters dedicated to pedestrians. Overall, the emphasis placed on pedestrians in the early 1960s has given Copenhagen a head start in the emerging focus on accessibility and human scale in contemporary city designs. But is it possible to have a car-free city? To many, that’s an oxymoron; but not to the citizens of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, situated 30 km southeast of Brussels, in the French-speaking part of the country. Due to an emergency relocation caused by a language dispute during the 1960s, the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) bought a 9-km-square plot on the Lauzelle plateau, a somewhat isolated stretch of fields and woods. But how would they go about creating their new center?  The inspiration for the university-city came down to two men–Michel Woitrin, general trustee of UCL, and Professor Raymond Lemaire, specialist in ancient cities. With the desire for a fresh outlook, they set down nine planning principles to aid in the new city’s construction.

  • A custom-made city
  • A pedestrian city (diameter of the city is less than 2.5 km)
  • Urban center with a human face
  • Urban atmosphere, with a town center, from the beginning
  • The site is the city matrix
  • A well-defined entity in the landscape
  • The university is the engine of the city
  • The university is integrated in the city
  • Flexible design

Guided by these principles, the design began to take shape. The heart of the city is built on a 7-hectare, 39-cm thick concrete slab. It is on this concrete slab, which covers public roads, parking lots, and a train station, that the buildings were constructed. So while access to the city is simple, the traffic is eliminated. Ever heard the expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”? They can.  Louvain-la-Neuve is now a thriving, growing city with the loudest noises not caused by street traffic, but by the boisterous hum of people mingling in pubs and shops dotted along the cobblestone streets. For the approximately 30,000 people in and around Louvain-la-Neuve, tossing out their car keys and lacing up their sneakers is an everyday experience.

"Creative Commons BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group - SUK - Superkilen Park". Source Forgemind ArchiMedia, licensed under CC 2.0

“Creative Commons BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group – SUK – Superkilen Park, Copenhagen, Denmark”. Source Forgemind ArchiMedia, licensed under CC 2.0

But, you may argue, vehicles have opened up the world to us. Economically, culturally–in fact, in almost every aspect–our species’ mobility has created global awareness. There is no denying the fact that the advancement of our technology has provided us with the comforts of today. There is also no denying the fact that to continue on this single-minded tunnel to success will ultimately plunder and destroy the progress that has been made. We’re already paying the price for this fever of energy consumption and push for vehicular accessibility in our increasingly desperate attempts to locate fossil fuels and, more seriously, in our misguided mentality that we can’t live without motorized transportation. With the noisy, smelly, dirty, hot world safely ignored behind our tinted automatic windows, we cruise through life without really experiencing our humanity. And it’s the norm. To us, a pedestrian-centric city is an anomaly, a really nice idea, but not reality. Not if you want to get things done. But is life all about doing?  Last time I checked, we were still called human beings. So maybe it’s time to embrace the mentality that these forward-thinking cities have presented to us: that the world is not only a place to get the job done, but a place to be. Article written by guest writer Linda Freymond Featured image; credit:

This article was originally submitted to Landscape Architects Network

Published in Blog

Leave a Reply

Lost Password