It might seem obvious but teachers have a responsibility to recommend books that will inform the lives of their students. I write this from experience: while studying at design school in 2012, I was fortunate enough to have a tutor, Simon Kilbane, whose library recommendations have shaped the way that I look at the world for the better part of the past decade. As my studio lead he recommended architect Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language. This in turn led me to other acclaimed urbanists’ works, such as Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Jan Gehl’s Cities for People. All three have informed the way that I think about cities – but none more so than Gehl.
Gehl’s work focuses on designing for people (not cars), with an emphasis on walkability and building “human-scale” streets and structures. His books back this approach with real-world examples and hard data that show how such a design ethos leads to people living happy and healthy urban lives. This is why the Danish Embassy in Myanmar’s announcement last week that Gehl’s seminal work will be published vin the Burmese language is so exciting.
The Southeast Asian country is rapidly constructing roads and buildings, so having a design community that’s well versed in what makes a good, human-scale city is critical. A Burmese edition of Gehl’s work means that young urbanists, architects and planners will have access to information that has been instrumental in making beautiful cities for people to live, work and play in. And it means that Kilbane’s Burmese contemporaries will have the opportunity to open up their students to better ways of seeing and designing the world.