The Human Scale, fixing our mistakes

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Human Scale is a documentary that discusses the growth of cities, what that growth has been based on and what city planning should take into account in future.

A number of megacities are featured and compared with each other. Basically, The Human Scale says that modern development has been driven by urbanisation and the motor car. This has resulted in high rise accommodation and an emphasis on roads to the exclusion of pedestrian areas. This has further led to an erosion of people contact and public life.

The crucial element missing from all this development has been the human element – spaces for humans, by humans. Some cities around the world have tried to reverse this trend by changing roads into pedestrian areas and introducing many kilometres of cycle lanes. And in Christchurch, New Zealand, ordinary citizens have been asked for their input on how their earthquake-devastated city should be rebuilt. Interestingly, their comments reflected an emphasis on restricting buildings to six or seven storeys, and emphasis on introducing more green, open areas.

I thought this quote from Things A Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone aptly sums up the message of The Human Scale:

When they first built the University of California at Irvine they just put the buildings in. They did not put any sidewalks; they just planted grass. The next year, they came back and put the sidewalks where the trails were in the grass.

People enjoying each other’s company in public in the city of Beijing. Photo: Brenda Daniels (2014)

People enjoying each other’s company in public in the city of Beijing. Photo: Brenda Daniels (2014)

The Human Scale is the second film I have watched at the Durban International Film Festival. It was listed under the Architecture Films section of the programme.



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