Domain 4- Performance Based Built Environment
Creative City





The Creative City

The following is based on The Creative City by Charles Landry, 2000

The creative city is a city that has a brand, and reflects a personality.   Some cities tend to focus upon the long term, not follow standardised solutions but foster individuality and creativity. Cities are at the centre of logistics, trade and finance however creativity needs something that enables possibility but at the same time is still secure. For cities, especially global cities to thrive in the 21st century there is a need for a culture of creativity - the capacity to think afresh when your world seems to be undergoing a paradigm shift, high ambition, entrepreneurship and opportunity, beauty and acute sensitivity to high quality urban design all of which shape their physical and social environment.

This implies thinking through social, political, and cultural as well as economic and technological creativity. It means power holders need to devolve power and to trade it for creative influence within a framework of guiding strategic principles within which it is possible to be tactically flexible. It thus affects a city’s organisational culture. This cultural capital represents the raw materials and scope within which the creativity of people can operate

The creative city has a diversified, sophisticated and internationally oriented cultural industries structure that nurtures and supports a wealth of local and international artistic activity that both are commercial, subsidised and voluntary.

People work in creative industries and the city store of talent continually replenished through domestic and foreign immigration in order to feed this machine.

 A good way of viewing a creative city is as a series of concentric circles. These circles are largely determined by property prices.  In the hub at the centre are the high value added services - finance and business services, retail, activities such as advertising or estate agencies and high profile cultural institutions or the headquarters of cultural industry organisations.  Surrounding this core is an inner urban ring which provides supply services to this hub - be that printers, couriers, catering. It is also usually the home of the less well-established creative industries that provide the innovative and lively atmosphere on which cities thrive such as design companies, young multimedia entrepreneurs even artists. It is they who tend to experiment with new products and services. The danger is that over time some of these inner areas themselves become gentrified. As incubating companies grow and become more profitable they either then move into the hub or gentrify their inner area, and in turn pushes out low value uses such as artists or local shops that cannot afford the new higher rents. The artists then in turn look for another low value area and so the cycle moves on.

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Identity and Distinctiveness

Identity is about creating a distinguishing character, one that is not imitative but draws on the unique nature of a place and its people. It seeks to identify and strengthen that which is special about a situation, and requires attention to detail, affection and care.

Local Strengths         

Each place has its potential, though it may not be obvious, particular to those who live there. It may be physical - a geographical position, or a group of buildings whose historic uses are etched into local memory - or intangible, like traditions and stories, or the skills of its inhabitants.

Turning Weakness into Strength

Successful schemes using the arts share a capacity to identify potential in the seemingly intractable and difficult. Often this is a run-down building or location whose structures seem inappropriate for our time.

Going Beyond Corporate Style

The International Style, for all the beauty of its best work, had the damaging effect of making our cities more uniform and bland. In its debased form of concrete and glass slabs, it can be seen from Aberdeen to Plymouth, New York to Caracas and Sydney to Kuala Lumpur.  But while the pendulum of architectural fashion has swung back towards traditional materials and ‘vernacular’ styles, local character is still under threat from the standardised corporate style of commercial interests. People enjoy difference, variety and individuality. They flock to markets selling things not found elsewhere. They love the drama of the unplanned town­scape, where buildings old and new, good and not so good, tell their own long story of the town. With leisure increasingly taking place at home and in private, towns must offer something different and inspiring, if a more collective public life is to reemerge again which arts-led developments have often encouraged.

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Creative City Characteristics

Typically creative cities have a number of characteristics:


Developing a clarity of purpose and ambition


Fostering visionary individuals and organizations 


Being open-minded and willing to take risks


Being strategically principled and tactically flexible


Being determined in planning rather than deterministic, thus being anticipatory


Willing to recognize and work with local cultural resources and local distinctiveness


Ensuring that leadership is widespread


Moving from a high blame culture to a low blame one

Why are the cultural industries and cultural activities now seen as important?

Cultural activity can weave its way like a thread through endeavours of all kinds adding value, meaning, local distinctiveness and impact as it proceeds.    Making a successful partnership between the arts, culture and urban regeneration thus requires a more imaginative understanding of arts and culture, and the way they work:


Cultural activities create 'meaning' and thus are concerned with and embody the identity and values of the city, both in terms of what it was and is becoming - here the intercultural and social inclusion agenda is moving to the fore.


Cultural activities are inextricably linked to innovation and creativity and historically this has been the lifeblood of cities as a means of unleashing their capacity to survive and adapt. Creativity is, of course, legitimised in the arts and increasingly is also seen by business as the key attribute they look for in employees.


In a world dominated by images the cultural sector is inextricably linked to the image of a place and a strong culture is believed to create positive images. Culture is thus seen as a means of attracting international companies and their mobile workforce who seek a vibrant cultural life for their employees. Thus by helping to create positive images the cultural sector has a direct impact on inward investment.


Culture's role in tourism is key, it is the primary reason a visitor comes to an area in the first place. And tourism might be the first step that allows someone to explore and know a place and later perhaps invest in it. Tourism offers are largely focused on cultural activities, be this the national collecting institutions like museums or galleries, which exude presence and power as well as the live activities like theatre, clubs, festivals or locally distinct rituals.


The recognition of the cultural industries as an economic sector has become an anchor in the debate about the future of culture. In particular their role as a platform to provide content for the IT driven knowledge based economy.

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Strategic Dilemmas

Strategic dilemmas policy makers face:

Framework dilemmas


Culture as the arts or culture as a way of life


Culture as a self-justifying value or culture as an instrumental development tool

Spatial dilemmas


A focus on the city centre or the inner fringe, suburbs and outer-lying estates


The establishment of cultural districts and clustering versus spreading provision

Economic dilemmas


Subsidy and intervention driven or market driven


Consumption or production focused

Infrastructure dilemmas


Hard infrastructure focused (containers) or activity focused (contents)

Social development dilemmas


Prestige/Icon development versus community focused development


Community emphasis or emphasis on communities


Cultural diversity or monoculture emphasis


Heritage and tradition or innovation and contemporary culture


Resident or visitors


External image focus or internal reality

Implementation dilemmas


Consultation or active participation in decision-making


Public or private


Local, national or international orientation


Direct control or insulation from the political process

Management dilemmas


Centralization or decentralization


Direct provision or contracting out


Trust and foundation structures or commercial companies


Artistic control or managerial control


The arts or the artist

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Factors of Success

Involving People in Renewal

Regeneration is not an end in itself: it is about people and the quality of the lives they will be able to lead. Unless projects involve, and win the support of local people, they cannot be sustained over time. External solutions frequently produce only resentment and hostility. It doesn’t matter how well local politicians, planning officers and developers understand what they are doing, and why, if they fail to com­municate any of that understanding to their electors, employers and customers. Local ownership of projects requires the involvement of community organisations and leaders, and of people who don’t belong to groups or read local papers. It is certainly a hard discipline, as many local authorities now reviewing their consultation procedures can testify, but working with local people is a fundamental constituent of success. It is not only essential for the longer-term via­bility of a project, which may be triggered by short-term funding, but also to inspire further ideas and participation.

Broadening the Scope of Planning

Planners usually define the terms by which regeneration occurs through their control of the local plan. But as they are not always able to see the town through the lived experience of its residents, their plans tend to be development and infrastructure-led. They are limited by professional constructs and political constraints.  Nevertheless, there is a growing recognition of arts potential impact on urban regeneration. This increasing credibility has enabled many arts projects to become suc­cessful in urban terms because they have found ways of bringing together different local interests. Where they exist, effective local authority arts committees have often played a similar uniting role.

Striking a Balance Between Buildings and Activities

In the past decade, as urban authorities have turned to the arts for help in supporting regeneration strategies, a debate about the relative value of arts buildings and activities has emerged. This polarisation is not always helpful: each has a role to play, and what is appropriate and what should come first will depend on circumstances. However, it is clear that, given the initial and ongoing costs of capital projects, the value of activities such as short-term events or festivals have been underplayed. Although a building can be a visible symbol of what has been achieved, its sheer cost and scale can begin to define the strategy, even to the exclusion of other activities. Demand for a building should ideally grow from the determination of wider social and economic needs, perhaps at a later stage in the process, and always as part of a wider development.

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Understanding Art, Culture and Creativity

From the Arts to Culture

Everything about a town is a potential resource for regeneration. Culture is more than the arts: it is also about a lived experience of a place and time. It focuses on what is special about a town and its peo­ple and how can pre-figure its future. This includes: 


Its artistic or archaeological history


Its built form and architectural heritage


Its landscape, topography, amenities, and land­marks


The at­tractiveness and legibility of its public space


Indigenous and recent ethnic traditions, accents and dialects


Local products and craft skills, manufacturing and services


The quality of retailing, leisure, sport, and entertainment


Sub-cul­tures, including those of the young


Traditions of public social life, civic traditions, festival and rituals


Skills in the traditional arts such as performing and painting


New cultural industries such as film, rock music or digital technology.

In short, culture is a summary term, which describes the atmosphere created by people in confrontation with the place they live in. It is expressed in physical form and activity. Planning is humanised when culture is given a leading role.

The potential value of culture to urban renewal is evident if its complex nature is recognised. However, in a world driven by economic imperatives, and focused on financial measures of success, the ‘softer’ benefits of cultural investment are easily forgotten.

The Arts and Creativity

We should not see as the arts only route to creativity any more than we see them as equivalent to culture. Creativity can make the most of our efforts and add value and meaning to them. But it is not reserved solely to artists - engineers, planners, social scientists, librarians, business people can all be creative if the environment within which they oper­ate is right.

Creating a successful partnership between the arts, culture and urban regeneration requires a more imaginative understanding of culture, and the way it works, than the traditional focus on aesthetic values generally allows.

Creating Liveable Cities: an Art-Form in Itself

The art of city making is as much a challenge for those concerned with regeneration as it ever was. Our goal should be the city as artefact, where designed and accidental environments of streets, buildings, landmarks and open spaces are brought to life with human activity. Cities are communities of people, living organisms not machines, endowed with particular identities, community networks and social dynamics, including economic activities, trading relations and a political community.

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Weaknesses of Some Current Practice

Cultural Investment Can Only Do So Much

Cultural initiatives cannot solve every problem. In areas of severe deprivation and unemployment a cultural initiative is only one, if vital, component of a wider regeneration strategy, it must integrate with training, education and economic development. The important issue is to assess realistically what cultural programmes can do, without underestimating their subtle impact.

Economics Above All

The crude interests of the local economy and of the city as a whole do not always coincide. Arguing that ‘what’s good for business is good for the town’ may lead to a concentration on the use of culture only for marketing purposes. Image campaigns with no grounding in local needs and aspirations can backfire.

Putting the Needs of Tourists Before Residents

With the increasing emphasis on tourism development, has come awareness of the needs to create a sustainable product, which enhances, rather than diminishes local quality of life. Where cultural investment has created major tourist attractions, they have sometimes courted the resentment of local people who feel excluded on economic or social grounds.

Imitation in Pursuit of Distinctiveness

Although culturally led projects are essentially about enhancing local distinctiveness, in practice they can be disappointingly imitative. The ever present mural, the fake antique carts selling supposedly local products, the multi-purpose arts centre, the new theatre that only a minority of the population visit - any of these projects might be right, but only if it coincides with local needs, assets and aspirations. It is the local audience that provides the bedrock of a successful initia­tive.

Supporting the Construction Industry not the Arts

Resources allocated to cultural initiatives are commonly sidetracked into building programmes. As a result an arts led regeneration initiative actually supports the construction industry rather than people and cultural activity. It can take years to build an opera house, or refurbish a theatre, during which time no cultural benefit is being derived by the local community. There may be inadequate resources to fund a full programme work as resources are eaten up by maintenance and running costs.

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Re-assessing the Response

It is partly because of the identified weakness in current practice, that increasing attention has been given to cultural activity, rather than flagship buildings. In particular, smaller cities, towns and neighbourhoods have sought for solutions, which are appropriate to their needs and budgets. The answer has in many cases been to support cultural activity and participatory programmes with objectives, which are more social than economic.

Compared to high-profile capital projects, community-based and participatory cultural activity is seen to have several key strengths:


Cultural activity is relatively cheap and very cost-effective.


It can be developed quickly in response to local needs and ideas.


It is flexible and can change as required.


It offers a potentially high return for very low risk.


It can have an impact out of all proportion to its cost.

This has far-reaching implications for policy makers. It demands greater emphasis and investment on arts and cultural initiatives that give people the chance to participate actively. Being a consumer of the products of others is enriching, but it is over-valued in relation to par­ticipation and agency.

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A Typology of Culture-led Regeneration

Regeneration is as individual as the places in which it happens. It means very different things in each place and city, and it is not surprising that it should be triggered or supported by an equally wide range of cultural catalysts.

The Building As Regenerator

The most obvious catalyst for regeneration - though not always the most successful - is an arts building. Building projects are often initiated by local authorities or by development agencies. They are expensive, flagship projects, which often provoke local and national controversy. At their best, they become hugely popular visitor attractions, which have a symbolic and economic impact on the surrounding area. But, partly because such large-scale projects are intended to serve regional or national populations, they may produce mixed feelings among local people. They can absorb scarce resources from other proposals and their running costs can restrict future funds for cultural activities. In particular, the contrast between the favoured area, and those beyond its boundaries can seem very sharp, and may contribute to resentment and cynicism.

Artists’ Activity As Regenerators

Building projects initiated by community groups may be less dramatic, but can have as much impact as the flagships of the state. Groups of artists joining forces to operate from a redundant building, can trigger the regeneration of an area through their occupation and the services they support. This may start with a café catering for the arts community, but whose ambience gradually becomes attractive to other resi­dents and visitors. From small beginnings, a whole area can develop an atmosphere attractive to small traders and new businesses in search of cheap, lively accommodation. Although local authorities cannot make this happen, they can create a planning regime, which will encourage such renewal. The danger is that, as the district is renewed, so rents and prices rise, and the artists on whom its success was based are forced out. The skill is in maintaining low-value uses with wider benefits such as creat­ing liveliness in an area, while allowing the cycle of renewal to increase property values.

Events As Regenerators

Cultural events can sometimes remind local people, council and developers of the potential of rundown, inner-fringe districts. Possible futures are explored by an event, which becomes the catalyst for regeneration. Over time, some arts events have become economically successful, and their original purpose as a spur to regeneration has been for­gotten.

Planning Regulation As Regenerator

The use of planning regulations to direct activities within a city is not new. Older industrial areas, for example, may have zoning policies that favour large-scale industrial development and are seen as unsuitable for housing. A change in use codes, e.g. to encourage residential and small business development can have major impacts. Local authorities familiar with using planning regulations in some contexts have not always appreciated their value in triggering cultural developments.

Flexibility As Regenerator

There are other invisible regenerators that cost nothing but imply a change in attitudes and a proactive approach to managing the culture of a city. Thus changing licensing hours and bye-laws at festival periods allows an authority to test their effect. Where this is beneficial, such changes often become permanent and help change the perception of an area.

Social Confidence As Regenerator

Regeneration depends on people, and their self-confidence. Time and again, arts projects have shown how the acquisition of confidence through participation in the arts can transform individual and communities. The confidence acquired through participating in arts initiatives can have other spin-offs such as enabling people to feel strong enough to get jobs in areas not related to the arts.

Mechanisms As Regenerators

Mechanisms and schemes, drawn from abroad or developed locally, can play a part in urban regeneration. Among the best known is the Percent for Art scheme modelled on that current in the USA.  Through this a proportion of building costs (usually 1%) is allocated to art. This can improve the quality of the fabric and raise expectations of local standards, but it is disappointing that the scheme has rarely been used to support activity, despite the public relations potential.

The Individual As Regenerator

The critical role of individuals in regeneration has already been mentioned. Their vision, tenacity, even obsession is always a factor. When the arts act as a regenerator there is always a project champion, though this is true of most successful regeneration projects. Arts projects often rely less on strategy than on intuition, but this approach is rare in mainstream development, where the focus is on more immediate returns on investment. Eccentricity reflects the willingness of individuals to depart from conventional problem solving. These are creative individuals who find it hard to operate within corporate structures.

The Artist As Regenerator

Artists see things from a different perspective. They turn weaknesses into strengths by recognising value in what the rest of us disregard. Artists work by hand, manipulating their materials from paint to steel. Their attention to detail, to the human touch, is unusual in the modern world. They recognise the value of the individual, the different and the local. Artists are often more committed to the communities in which they live and work than those whose occupations require them to move around.

Artists usually do not have a job in the conventional sense. They are self-employed, living by applying a range of transferable skills to the different opportunities, which arise. An economic lifestyle, which once challenged convention seems increasingly sustainable in a world of short-term contracts, retraining and the need for adaptable skills. But perhaps the major contribution artists can make to the regeneration process is to give others the confidence to be creative too. The task is to help everyone involved in local development feel the confidence to express their creative visions rather than accept existing assump­tions.

Marketing As Regenerator

The marketing process itself can be part of the regeneration dynamic.  Although the initial artistic project may be small, marketing can be used to maximise its impact. So the success of one event gives confidence to take on bolder projects, creating a virtuous cycle of initiatives.

The Organisation As Regenerator

The presence of an arts organisation can be invaluable to a town or city, and not only for its actual work. Art organisation can popularise the use of art in public places as a means of creating better quality environments and affected the thinking of many local authorities. National organisations can change how decision-makers look at problems in the first place.




Understanding Creativity



Culture-led Regeneration

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