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Measuring What Matters


Measuring What Matters

Measuring What Matters: How people data transformed the world’s most livable cities (and is reshaping 13th Avenue on the UO campus)
Urban design has gone through many fashions, from the Beaux-Arts to Modernism to Ecological Urbanism. But what makes a city really work and really loved? From footrests for bicyclists at Copenhagen’s stoplights to ad-hoc neighborhood plazas in Queens to retrofitting Buenos Aires’s largest slum with generous walking streets, a global revolution is changing the way designers outfit cities based on what people want and need. Less obvious is the data behind these transformations. Collected over years and sometimes decades, careful ethnographic research and people-focused data has provided designers, policymakers, and politicians with evidence to make radical changes to the fabric of cities—and a way to measure success. From the town square to Times Square, measuring the daily routines of the human animal is providing an essential lens to design cities for the 21st Century. Gehl partner and managing director Blaine Merker will tour some of these projects and talk about how people-focused methods are being put to use in creating a conceptual design for 13th Avenue on the University of Oregon campus.

Gehl is an urban design, planning, and strategy consultancy based in Copenhagen, New York, and San Francisco. For 40 years, the Gehl method of observing people has helped to shape Copenhagen into what Monocle Magazine calls “the world’s most livable city”. More recently, the company advised the City of New York on the transformation of Times Square and has developed plans and strategies for dozens of public and private projects in 200 cities around the world. It is currently applying its ethnographic approach with Walker Macy Landscape Architects to develop a new vision for 13th Avenue as it runs through the UO campus.

Blaine Merker is a partner and the US managing director at Gehl. Besides guiding operations of the company in the Americas, he directs projects with a mobility and landscape focus. Before joining Gehl in 2014, he co-founded Rebar, an art and design collective that created Park(ing) Day and many other projects that defined the emergent genre of tactical urbanism. He has helped start up a handful of companies and nonprofits dedicated to urban experimentation and advocacy, including Innovation Partnership, Livable Oregon, and Gehl Institute. Blaine earned his Masters of Landscape Architecture in 2005 from Berkeley, where he also teaches, and has a Bachelors in History from Reed College. His writings can be found in Next City and in the Routledge book, Insurgent Public Space.

The lecture is co-sponsored by Campus Planning and Facilities Management and LiveMove as part of the 13th Avenue Conceptual Design project to create a visionary conceptual design that transforms 13th Avenue into a memorable part of the campus experience and reflects Campus Plan principles and university values. For more information visit the Campus Planning and Facilities Management website at:

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University of Oregon Department of Landscape Architecture