A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"The Human Scale" plays tonight at Space Gallery

"The Human Scale," a documentary about Jan Gehl Architects (who were some of the key designers behind the transformations of New York City streets in the past decade) and their efforts to create safer, more human streets and public spaces in the world's cities,  will screen tonight at Space Gallery.

I had a chance to watch it last week and wrote up a review of the film for my day job over on MaineToday.com. Here's an excerpt:

The cinematography offers an engaging parade of street-level views of people and landscapes from various world cities. It’s like a 70-minute trip around some of the world’s best people-watching spots.

The screening at Space Gallery is being co-presented with the Portland Society of Architects, and viewers will probably be thinking about how the film’s ideas might apply here in our own city, where several high-profile urban design debates have been handed off for lawyers to decide.

Portland is no Chongqing, but we, too, are struggling to accommodate a significant surge of migrants — young artists, refugee families, job hunters, retired empty-nesters — who are all seeking a better life here.

In the abstract, most can agree that Portland should make room for more housing, more arts venues, and more car-free families. Yet every proposal to change the city’s skyline brings howls of protest from people who insist that we actually need more space for cars, or that new apartment buildings can’t be allowed to infringe on the ocean views of wealthy neighbors.

Unfortunately, “The Human Scale” doesn’t offer much insight on how to deal with such conflicts, and that underlies the film’s most serious shortcoming.

Read the rest, and watch the film's trailer, on MaineToday.com.

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