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Creative City

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The Creative City is a concept set out by David Yencken and Charles Landry in the late 1980s. The idea has a number of trajectories including Swedish researcher, Gunnar Törnqvist’s notion of the ‘creative milieu’ - a term first used by Hippolyte Taine, Philippe Aydalot and colleagues investigations of innovative milieux at Gremi.[1][2][3] Another strand was the work of Ake Andersson on creativity and economic development in a regional context and Peter Hall’s long term interest in innovation and creativity in cities summarized in his magisterial work ‘Cities in Civilization.[4][5]

In 1988, a seminar in Melbourne called The Creative City was largely focused on the arts, yet included a speech by David Yencken,[6] According to this seminar Yencken argued that "cities must be efficient and fair but also committed to fostering creativity among its citizens and to providing emotionally satisfying places and experiences for them". Charles Landry and his colleagues at Comedia from the late 1980s onwards established the notion as a practical urban policy tool that saw creativity as a resource for urban development. This included the imagination of artists, scientists, businesses, ordinary people as well as the civic creativity of public officials defined as imaginative problem solving applied to public good objectives.[7]

Creativity and imagination in city making[edit]

The Creative City proposed a new planning paradigm from which an at times contentious global movement emerged. The first attempt to implement the concept at city level was the 1991 study, Glasgow: The Creative City and its Cultural Economy undertaken by Comedia,[8] followed in 1995 by a study on urban creativity in 10 cities called The Creative City in Britain and Germany.[9] In the same year, the first book on the topic appeared.[10] In parallel a series of conferences in Glasgow, sponsored by the Anglo-German Foundation, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Huddersfield that reinforced the concept.[11][12] The Huddersfield Creative Town Initiative funded by £7million from the European Union was the first comprehensive attempt to apply and embed its principles to a city.[13][14]

Landry in ‘Lineages of The Creative City’ writes: “The creative city when introduced was seen as aspirational; a clarion call to encourage open-mindedness and imagination implying a dramatic impact on organizational culture. Its philosophy is that there is always more creative potential in a place. It posits that conditions need to be created for people to think, plan and act with imagination in harnessing opportunities or addressing seemingly intractable urban problems. It was a response to the dramatic economic, social and cultural transformations across the globe from the early 1980s onwards that required a re-assessment of cities' resources and potential.[15]Creative infrastructure is a combination of the hard and the soft. The latter includes a city's mindset, how it approaches opportunities and problems; its atmosphere and incentives and regulatory regime. The soft infrastructure includes: A highly skilled and flexible labour force; dynamic thinkers, creators and implementers. It is not only artists or creative economy participants who are creative. It can anyone who addresses issues in an inventive way be it a social worker, a business person, a scientist or public servant. A culture of creativity is seen as crucial in how urban stakeholders operate. By encouraging and legitimizing the use of imagination within the public, private and community spheres, the ideas bank of possibilities and potential solutions to any urban problem will be broadened. The aim is to identify, nurture, attract and sustain talent so as to mobilize ideas, talents, and creative organizations with an appropriate set built environment and help to establish a creative milieu.[16][17]

Early developments[edit]

Partners for Livable Places "later Communities" founded in 1977 was important in the early stages of the creative city idea. Partners initially focused on design and culture as resources for liveability.[18] In the early 1980s, Partners launched a programme to document the economic value of design and cultural amenities. Their Economics of Amenity,[19] The programme explored how cultural amenities and the quality of life in communities are linked to economic development and job creation. This work was the catalyst for a significant array of economic impact studies of the arts across the globe.[20]

Core concepts used by Partners were cultural planning and cultural resources, which they saw as the planning of urban resources including architecture, parks, quality design, the natural environment, animation, arts activity and tourism. From the late 1970s onwards UNESCO and the Council of Europe began to investigate the cultural resources and their associated industries. From the perspective of cities it was Nick Garnham, who when seconded to the Greater London Council in 1983/4 set up a cultural industries unit put the cultural industries on the agenda.[21] Drawing on, re-reading and adapting the original work by Walter Benjamin,[22] and Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in the 1930s/1940s which had seen the culture industry as a kind of monster and influenced too by Hans Magnus Enzensberger Garnham saw the cultural industries as a potentially liberating force.[23][24][25] A follow-up initiative in Australia was a Creative Australia National Workshop in 1989 on 'The Relationship between Creativity and an Innovative Productive Future' jointly sponsored by the Commission for the Future and the Australia Council for the Arts".[26]

Simultaneously Comedia in Britain founded in 1978 by Charles Landry were responding to the dramatic restructuring of the global economy and saw creativity as the new resource for urban transformation replacing location, steel and coal,[27] and began undertaking a series of projects on creative hubs and urban environments, such as ‘Establishing a Media Zone in Birmingham in early (1988), assessing the Cultural Economy of Barcelona in (1990) or London World City (1991).[28] Additionally it sought to create a framework for measuring creative cities.[29]


  1. Törnqvist, G., 1983. Creativity and the renewal of regional life. In: A. Buttimer ed. Creativity and Context: A Seminar Report, Lund Studies in Geography, B. Human Geography, n. 50. Lund: Gleerup Buttimer, pp. 91–112.
  2. Hall, P., 1998. Cities in Civilization: Culture, Innovation and Urban Order. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
  3. Aydalot P. (1986). Milieux innovateurs en Europe Broché –,‎ Groupe de recherche européen sur les milieux innovateurs, GREMI
  4. Andersson, A., 1987. Culture, Creativity and Economic Development in a Regional Context. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
  5. Hall, P., 1998. Cities in Civilization: Culture, Innovation and Urban Order. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
  6. Yencken, D., 1988. The creative city. In: J. Leed ed. The Creative City. Themed issue of Meanjin, 47, 4.
  7. Landry, Charles: An Advanced Introduction to the Creative City, Edward Elgar publishing, Cheltenham, 2019
  8. "Making the Most of Glasgow's Cultural Assets" (PDF). understandingglasgow.com.
  9. Landry Charles, Bianchini Franco, Ebert Ralf, Gnad Fritz. The creative city in Britain and Germany. London: Anglo-German Foundation for the Study of Industrial
  10. Landry Charles and Bianchini Franco, The Creative City, London, Demos,1995.
  11. Bianchini, Franco, 2018, "Reflections on the origins, interpretations and development of the creative city idea", in Ilja Van Damme, Bert De Munck and Andrew Miles (eds.) "Cities and Creativity from the Renaissance to the Present", New York and London
  12. Grodach Carl, 2017 Urban cultural policy and creative city making, Cities Volume 68 pages 82-91
  13. Wood Phil, Taylor Calvin. 2004, Big Ideas for a Small Town: the Huddersfield Creative Town Initiative, Local Economy: The Journal of the Local Economy Policy Unit
  14. Gilmore Abigail, 2012 ‘From ‘crap towns’ to ‘creative places’ - local cultural politics and policy transfer. Paper presented to International Conference for Cultural Policy Research 2012, 9 – 12th July 2012, Barcelona, ICCPR 2012 Conference Proceedings
  15. "Lineages of the Creative City" (PDF). charleslandry.com. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  16. Araya, Daniel; Peters, Michael A. (2010). Education in the Creative Economy: Knowledge and Learning in the Age of Innovation. Peter Lang. ISBN 978-1-4331-0744-3. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  17. "Creative Spirits" (PDF). Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  18. "Guide to the Partners for Livable Communities records, 1960-2012Partners for Livable Communities C0230". scrc.gmu.edu. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  19. "Economics of Amenity - Partners for Livable Communities". livable.org. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  20. "Twenty Years of Economic Impact Studies of the Arts: A Review" (PDF). Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  21. "Bianchini Franco, GLC R.I.P. Cultural Policies in London 1981 -1986" (PDF). Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  22. "Benjamin Walter, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1935" (PDF). Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  23. Adorno Theodor and Horkheimer Max, The Dialectics of Enlightenment originally 1944 rep. Verso Classics, 1997
  24. Enzensberger Hans Magnus and Roloff Max, The Consciousness Industry: On literature, politics and media, Seabury Press, 1974
  25. Garnham Nicholas, Concepts of culture: Public policy and the cultural industries, Journal of Cultural Studies Vol. 1. 1, 1987
  26. Commission for the Future and Australia Council for the Arts (2–4 July 1989). "The Relationship between Creativity and an Innovative Productive Future". Papers and Proceedings of the Creative Australia National Workshop.
  27. "Origins Futures Creative City" (PDF). Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  28. "Archive of talks and projects | Charles Landry". Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  29. Indicators of a creative city: a methodology for assessing urban viability and vitality, ''Creative City Working'' Papers, 3, Bournes Green, Comedia, 1994.
  • Yencken, D. (1988). "The creative city", Meanjin, Vol 47, Number 4.
  • Commission for the Future and Australia Council for the Arts. (1989) "The Relationship between Creativity and an Innovative Productive Future", Papers and Proceedings of the Creative Australia National Workshop, 2–4 July 1989, Workshop convenor Dr Jane Gilmour, Commission for the Future, Melbourne.
  • Hall, Sir P. (1998). Cities in Civilisation: culture, innovation and urban order. London: Weidenfeld.
  • Landry, C. (2000). The Creative City: A toolkit for urban innovators, London: Earthscan.
  • Howkins, J. (2001). The Creative Economy: How people make money from ideas. London: Penguin.
  • Florida, R. (2002). The rise of the creative class—and how it is transforming leisure, community and everyday life. New York: Basic Books.
  • Carta, M. (2007). Creative City. Dynamics, Innovations, Actions. Barcelona: List.

External links[edit]