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The Human Scale

Where to Watch The Human Scale


The Human Scale is a 2012 documentary film directed by Andreas M. Dalsgaard, starring Jan Gehl—an internationally recognized architect and urban design consultant from Denmark—alongside Rob Adams and Robert Doyle. This thought-provoking and insightful documentary delves into Gehl's lifelong mission to re-imagine modern cities from the pedestrian and cyclist's perspective, putting humans at the center of urban planning design, a concept commonly referred to as 'human scale' design.

The film commences by presenting the audience with the predicament that modern civilization currently faces: rapidly increasing urbanization. Urbans environments are growing at an unprecedented rate; people are pouring into cities, and these cities are struggling to accommodate such an explosive growth. The film attempts to unveil the consequential issues of such ceaseless urban expansion—increased traffic congestion, escalated pollution, rising costs of living, and an overall reduction of quality life. It lays bare the flaws inherent in conventional city planning, giving a wake-up call to architects, urban planners, and policymakers alike.

Jan Gehl is presented as an authority against traditional urban landscape design, working against the car-centric society that modern cities have become. He stands as an advocate for building cities that are designed for people, not for vehicles. Unlike conventional city planning that centers around infrastructure and buildings, Gehl's design philosophy believes in a human-centric architectural approach—a notion that puts humans, human interaction, and human-scale intimacy as pivotal components of urban development.

Throughout The Human Scale, the filmmakers journey with Gehl and his team, Gehl Architects, to various cities worldwide— Christchurch in New Zealand, Melbourne in Australia, New York City in the USA, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Chongqing in China, and more. Each case study is used to further stress the importance and potential benefits of human-scale design. Incorporating both real-life narratives and expert perspectives, the film gives viewers a glimpse into the positive impacts of shifting our cities to adhere to Gehl's revolutionary philosophy.

The documentary paints a captivating picture of Christchurch in the wake of the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 that nearly obliterated the city. Gehl Architects were invited to help redesign the city, which provided an excellent opportunity not only to reconstruct what was lost but also to reimagine how citizens should connect with their urban environments. The director invites viewers to see the transforming city as a symbol of hope and an example of how modern cities can be redesigned on a human scale.

Melbourne's case study reveals the city's transition from a deserted, business-centric downtown to a vibrant, people-friendly city, thanks to Rob Adams’ efforts—Melbourne's Director of City Design. Likewise, it takes us through New York City, where we are introduced to Janette Sadik-Khan, the former transportation commissioner. Under her lead, parts of the city were dramatically converted into pedestrian and bicycle-friendly zones, enhancing public spaces and, in turn, resident satisfaction. While in the dense cities of Dhaka and Chongqing, the film demonstrates the dire need for a human-centric approach to counteract the overwhelming burden of their exploding populations on the existing infrastructure.

The subsequent effect is that viewers are pulled into the fray of these cities' lives, experiences, and transformations as they bear witness to the impact of the human-scale philosophy.

Overall, The Human Scale serves as a profound contemplation on the subject of urban planning. While it exposes the glaring issues associated with rapid urbanization and poorly planned cities, it simultaneously provides meaningful solutions through the ideas and teachings of Jan Gehl. It pushes the viewer towards understanding that the vitality and livability of a city are determined not by its buildings and roads but by its people and the spaces they inhabit and interact with.

Defying conservative urban development practices, The Human Scale asserts that cities should not merely be a space for living but should also encourage life. In its brilliantly presented narrative supported by striking visuals, the film sends a powerful and pertinent message—cities need to be designed to improve residents' quality of life. With its compelling storytelling and thought-provoking message, The Human Scale transforms how we perceive cities and, more importantly, the power of human-centric design.

The Human Scale is a Documentary movie released in 2013. It has a runtime of 83 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.2. It also holds a MetaScore of 50.

How to Watch The Human Scale

Where can I stream The Human Scale movie online? The Human Scale is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Kanopy, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD, Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent The Human Scale for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

Andreas Dalsgaard
Jan Gehl, Rob Adams, He Dongquan
The Human Scale is available on .