As Torontonians, we’re very well-versed in the idea of overcrowding whether it be while trying to share the narrow streets with cyclists, streetcars and automobiles on our morning commute or as we see high rise condo towers taking over our skylines. This is a problem shared by many other large cities in the world and Danish city planner Jan Gehl is trying to do something about it. As he sees it, the way to plan for a population that is set to double over the next 40 years is to re-design cities on a smaller scale with a human element in mind – more green space and pedestrian-friendly areas, less reliance on cars and lower rise buildings that encourage people to interact with one another and leave the house to explore the city. The Human Scale looks at cities that are looking to drastically change their infrastructure, like New York, which has already begun to successfully implement some of Gehl’s suggestions in order to fix their gridlock problem, and Christchurch which is set to completely re-build their downtown core after 2011’s devastating earthquake.

While the film can, at times, come across as a bit of an in-class lesson in urban planning, that doesn’t take away from its important message or the fact that Gehl and his team have some really smart and well-thought out suggestions for improving the life of the city dweller. It’s also really interesting to visit cities like Dhaka, Bangledesh and Chongqing, China to observe how the population influx has crippled the way their cities work and what specific changes need to be made to fix the problem – as it turns out, over-crowding is kind of a universal problem.

Is The Human Scale opening weekend worthy?

It’s not opening weekend worthy unless you’re a nerd for urban planning, but even if you have just a passing interest in the subject it’s well worth your time. Oh and if you happen to work on Toronto City Council, this film is very definitely essential.

More About The Human Scale

The Human Scale trailer

The Human Scale gallery