Oliver Schulze’s fascination with public space began when the Berlin Wall fell. For any 18-year-old in Germany in 1989, it was a monumental moment, but for Schulze it triggered a lifelong curiosity about the relationship between people and the urban environment. The Wall crumbling represented the local impact of seismic societal change—showing public space as a theatre for social transformation and a platform for positive and negative sentiment.
This experience led him to the UK, where he spent six years studying architecture at the University of Manchester, began his professional career, and later taught at the University of Liverpool. In 1996 he was in Manchester when the IRA bombings destroyed much of the city centre, and in the years afterward as the city was rebuilt. Witnessing Manchester’s regeneration showed Schulze that we have the potential to redesign our cities as complete ecosystems rather than individual buildings, and to reshape our lives as a result.
Schulze’s career then took him to Copenhagen, where he was hired to join the team at Gehl Architects. As director at Gehl, he led a succession of award-winning and high-profile public-space projects around the world. After eight years, he left Gehl to pursue his vision of a hands-on, nimble, and human-centred design practice that would actively enhance urban environments: Schulze+Grassov.
He is a visiting professor in urban design at Washington University in St. Louis.