Creativity @ the crossroads
- Series: SPECIAL GUESTS – views & voices
The International Creative City Columne #1:
Charles Landry is an authority on creativity and its uses and how city futures are shaped by paying attention to the culture of a place. He helps cities transform their thinking so that they look at their potential imaginatively and can plan and act with originality.
For 2010LAB.tv Charles Landry publishes a column on a two months basis:
Creativity has become a mantra of our age and it is a world-wide phenomenon. It is in danger of being overused. Everyone is responding to the fact that the world has changed dramatically so that it feels like a paradigm shift. Many things seem the same yet their underlying operating dynamics are different. Creativity it seems is like the answer.
A creative frenzy
There is an increasing frenzy as places want to become creative cities with vibrant creative quarters based on a different kind of economy. This highlights the experiential, the immersive, the ubiquitous and co-created products and services as distinctions between producers and consumers break down and where the immaterial and ideas can generate just as much value as that which can be seen and touched. Creative hubs are places with the right physical, mental, intellectual and network infrastructures that generate the conditions for people to think, plan and act with imagination.
This blog looks forward to your feedback and will comment on what environments do this well and explore examples from around the world. Is the Ruhr a good example, what about Temple Bar in Dublin, Fitzroy in Melbourne, Dotonbori in Osaka, the Distillery District in Toronto, Palermo in Buenos Aires and many more? Can truly and globally recognized creative environments only develop in big cities or can it happen elsewhere - in smaller towns or even rural areas? Is creativity predominantly focused on the creative industries or are there other domains from science to greening to social activism where it is best expressed?
Periods of history involving transition and mass transformation, like the Industrial Revolution or the technological revolution of the past fifty years, can produce confusion; a sense of liberation and heady expectations combined with a feeling of worry and being swept along by events. It takes a while for more settled patterns to take root. Some love this uncertainty and sense of movement and possibility which they feel provides room for creativity. Yet most prefer predictability as their default position. How do places show and create the subtle balance between wildness and order? Is this expressed physically through bizarre new buildings like Gehry’s Dancing House in Prague or squatted old buildings like Tacheles in Berlin or the many recycled old manufacturing sites like breweries or diaries, textile or cable factories, coal works or military barracks. Or is it something else? Do you need extraordinary buildings and lively external settings to be creative or can it also happen in boring, soulless and ugly environments?
The physical or the virtual
The essence of creativity is its multifaceted resourcefulness, its problem solving capacity and ability to generate opportunities. It works by taking a 360% perspective, by bringing together the often disconnected or by looking at things afresh. Most creative ideas and projects require people to physically connect and communicate. Of course individuals working on their own can generate creativity in their bedroom or office, but even isolated individuals need outside stimulation – a community of like minded people to bounce of ideas or simply to socialize. Interacting and mixing is key and when the physical setting makes this easy it acts as an accelerator of opportunity and connection and can force feed innovation and new ideas. But increasingly projects are complex and multi-faceted tasks, which often require teams. This work can be done in virtual space, but it seems place and physical anchoring matters as much as ever. What physical spaces and environments cultivate and encourage innovation? What are their qualities and characteristics? Creating places to stimulate innovation is the central challenge for the urban development community. The question is to what extent can that be planned and equally to what extent can market driven approaches provide the answer – or is it a combination of both.
Creativity can be applied to any field from the social, political, organizational and cultural arenas to technology, manufacturing, service delivery or finance, or healthcare or recasting organizational structures. Crucially creative inputs can add value to activities and businesses not normally considered creative, such as engineering, facilities management or the hospitality industry. Creativity is not confined to the arts, although artistic creativity has a special position in the new context.
The artistic imagination
First most artists have an exploratory mindset and they are on a journey of discovery; second they focus on the emotional and experiential precisely qualities required in the new economic configuration and thirdly their training is what forms a significant skills base within the creative economy sector including design, sound, the visual, media and performance. Concerned with images, perception and the symbolic realm the creative industries play an increasingly central role as both sources of employment and wealth creation. This can make an ordinary phone into a potentially extraordinary experience or a simple chair or table an object of deep desire.
Yet the influence of the creative industries extends even further as it is a platform for both developing the economy and even the city. At its core there are three main domains: the arts and cultural heritage, the media and entertainment industries and perhaps most importantly creative business-to-business services and the way they can add value to every product or service. In the latter sphere, especially in design, advertising and entertainment the creative industries act as drivers of innovation in the broader economy shaping the so-called ‘experience economy’. This spectacularizes the city and artists and other creatives are increasingly used to provide the imagination.
This raises interesting issues for city makers. The city of industrial production looks and feels differently from a creative city that tries to encourage us to use our imagination, to be flexible, to network and to turn knowledge into wealth. Decision makers continually aim to attract creatives and knowledge nomads in the so-called ‘war for talent’ in order to create a self-reinforcing cycle and to make them a hub. They seek to manifest the creativity of their special areas, neighbourhoods and quarters through an increasingly recognized repertoire that urban developers use and this includes inserting multi-purpose cultural facilities, iconic buildings or developing a cafe culture. Yet is this enough since a creative place is a mix of hard and soft infrastructure, it is a balance between formal and informal structures and things that are invisible and visible.
Where next with creativity?
Finally, there are some serious questions to ask about creativity. First, has the word creativity become so overused that it is losing its meaning and power? Second, creativity for many seems like the answer to most problems, but is it being asked to solve more problems than it can cope with from social deprivation to environmental issues. Third, what are the most important issues at this juncture of world history? What really matters? For me self focused and self referential creativity is not very interesting. Instead any creative quarter or city needs an ethical perspective. So we need to think of our creative places as not trying to be the most creative places in the world or region. They should strive to be the best and most imaginative cities for the world. This one change of word – from ‘in’ to ‘for’ – has dramatic implications for its operating dynamics. It gives city-making an ethical foundation. It helps the aim of cities becoming places of solidarity where the relations between the individual, the group, outsiders to the city and the planet are in better alignment. These can be places of passion and compassion.
- Underground Art-Gallery
- Dictatorship of the arts – Jonathan Meese
- Art and passion – Jose Manuel Barroso
- Creative Spaces / Places - What can Brussels learn from Toronto
- made in marxloh, sell in turkey - Simon Evans on Duisburg-Marxloh
- Ruhr Residency in the Creative Factory Rotterdam
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