Renowned urban planner Jan Gehl says Perth could be ‘new Melbourne’


Urban renewal by acclaimed Dane Jan Gehl (right) is celebrated in the book by (rear, l-r) Curtin University’s Annie Matan and Professor Peter Newman. Picture: Jon Bassett.
Renowned urban planner Jan Gehl says Perth could be ‘new Melbourne’
Urban renewal by acclaimed Dane Jan Gehl (right) is celebrated in the book by (rear, l-r) Curtin University’s Annie Matan and Professor Peter Newman. Picture: Jon Bassett.

GREED may kill the foreshore at Elizabeth Quay according to acclaimed Danish urban planner Jan Gehl during in his visit this week to the city he says could rival Melbourne for its revitalisation

“It could be usual West Australian greed that allows people to go in and overbuild the Quay with too many high storeys, meaning that almost certainly the environment will be ruined.” Dr Gehl said.

Dr Gehl is considered a global leader in how to make congested urban areas liveable and attractive for walking and cycling .

In his native Copenhagen, a 10-year-old child can now cycle across the city because of an emphasis on safe intersection crossings.

Dr Gehl’s work improving London, New York, Melbourne. Adelaide, Auckland as well as Perth, which he previously visited in 1995, 2005 and 2014, has been awarded.

This week, he attended the People Cities and Low Carbon Living conference organised by Curtin University, after which he noted the changes since his first visit when he considered the Perth CBD “hopeless”.

“It was a little shopping mall surrounded by carparking and traffic in the streets, and completely dead with designated areas so you shopped here, drink there, have a hospital somewhere else and no one apart form about 700 lived in it,” Dr Gehl said

Improvements, including two-way traffic in previously one-way streets, bike lanes, Forrest Place’s connection to trains and a viable CBD population have all “turned around” the city, prompting a comparison with the transformation of Victoria’s capital.

“I think we have another Melbourne just around the corner here in Perth, but it’s been happening quietly and no one knows about it yet,” Dr Gehl said.

However, there is work to be done and he is concerned about how planned Elizabeth Quay high-rises may reduce its attraction.

“I worry about the waterfront, and always had the idea that it should be broken up with bays and islands all the way to East Perth, with islands to what I call a ‘dead zone’ in the Swan River to which people could travel to see things like WA animals, and not just go for a cappuccino,” Dr Gehl said.

His work is in People Cities: the Life and Legacy of Jan Gehl written by Curtin University’s Professor Peter Newman and Annie Matan.