Deciphering Culture

Archive for the ‘Urban Planning’ Category

Short takes: different types of “creative metropoles”

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Interesting project winding up in September 2011 looks at the different strategies taken by eleven European cities to develop and support their creative industries. The Creative Metropoles project is based on a premise I share and would like to see shared in the U.S.: “a facilitator of innovation, creative industries are essential for the development of other sectors.” The cities (as different as Berlin and Riga, Amsterdam & Warsaw) will each identify their own best practices and learn from each other’s experiences — “the ambition is not only to present the good practices but also deal with current problem issues and generate new knowledge and approaches.” The project is working in 5 policy areas:

1. structure of the public support for creative industries

2. business capacity and internationalisation of creative industries

3. space for activities by creative industries and creative city districts as creative incubators

4. funding schemes for creative industries

5. demand for the outputs of creative industries, including municipalities in the role of consumers.

The final report, particularly the appendices (Good Practices from European Cities) offers an interesting view of the diversity of approaches to developing creative industries that have had significant success and point to the need to both localize (i.e., collaboration for mutual benefit among Berlin) and reach across national boundaries (i.e., relationship building between artisans and designers in Fes, Morocco and Amsterdam). There’s a lot of material and I’ve just been browsing but my first impression is there’s a lot to learn.c

David Byrne reflects on The Architecture of Fear

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In his Journal, David Byrne reflects on how the architecture of cities helps shape human interactions. Motivated by the irony of attending a New Urbanism conference in Atlanta, Byrne writes insightfully on planned communities, urban sprawl, the history of urban planning, and the ongoing transformations of the American urban landscape.  The Architecture of Fear is well worth reading — check it out.




Written by Jeffrey Callen

June 1, 2010 at 8:57 am

Art and Regeneration – why do it? (@ Architecture Centre Network)

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Interesting article on the use of art in urban regeneration efforts — more complicated and interesting than I would have thought.

Installation by Faisal Abdu’allah using poem from Almost an Island  project. Image courtesy Art on Greenwich Peninsula
Installation by Faisal Abdu’allah using poem from Almost an Island project. Image courtesy Art on Greenwich Peninsula

Art and regeneration – why do it?

When art and regeneration join forces the effect can be a renewed celebration of the places where we live, work and play. On the other hand, it can result in imagination being hounded into nothingness. Both these perspectives were revealed at a candid talk at The Building Exploratory in London on 10 February 2010.

Sarah Butler, Sam Wilkinson and Anna Strongman shared their wisdom on the roles of the artist, the curator and the development manager. All three have worked on major regeneration projects that have included artists in community engagement, design development, and in exploring how people use a place.

Political and complicated

All three speakers emphasised that combining art and regeneration can lead to some unexpected relationships, opportunities and problems. It is a complicated and political process, which is driven by different needs – to describe or understand a place, to develop people’s physical and imaginative experiences of a place, to make a place attractive in a competitive market for business tenants, for PR value, or by an appreciation of the intrinsic value of art, to name a few.

Time for change

One thing that is certain is that the regeneration of a place takes time. Anna Strongman, Development Manager for Argent, said it took six years to get planning permission for the 67-acre development at Kings Cross in London, which will result in eight million square feet of space for offices and homes and a host of facilities from new roads to the relocated University of the Arts.

So when is the best time for artists to get involved? Sarah Butler, director of UrbanWords and a writer, said the longer an artist can work in a place the better as “relationships and changes that can happen are gradual and unpredictable … artists can be effective at later stages of a project, but for their conversations and skills to have the most impact on the development of a place, they need to start working if possible before any master planning is done.”

Sam Wilkinson, arts consultant and co-director of Insite Arts, described how artists were involved from the beginning of a large-scale retail development in Bristol with a £12.5 million art budget. The first two years were spent developing a public art strategy, which the local authority needed and the developer was keen to support as a step to building a “very positive relationship with the local authority”.

However, smaller or temporary art works can generate change too, particularly when they happen in the context of other regeneration projects. Sarah described how ideas and words from the Almost an Island project on the Greenwich Peninsula in London were picked up by other artists, which generated “small scale ripples beyond its resources”. And Sam said: “A lot of the fabulous work we did in Bristol has kind of gone away – it’s about that moment in time. It’s about dialogue.”

Dialogue and community

So, how do you define the different needs of residents, businesses, developers and artists in relation to a particular place? One approach is to do a character profile of a place. Sarah once asked a firm doing a profile if they had talked to anyone and was shocked when the answer was no. “I was kind of horrified that these documents were written without any reference to the people who lived there. There’s a key role for the arts here as artists can spend the time and have the skills to explore and unpick and observe a place in a way that would be useful to that process of regeneration.”

She said that the regenerator, community and artist are often seen as separate entities. “I worry about sticking the artist in the middle … they can push open doors but the (to read more click here)…

Written by Jeffrey Callen

April 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Has the construction of “Creative Cities” exacerbated economic disparities?

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An important article from the Community Arts Network that raises questions regarding the actual effects of the UNESCO sponsored effort to transform 19 middle-tier cities into Creative Cities to gain global standing. The same questions apply to other communities trying to develop reputations as creative centers.

Creative City Fever: The 2010 City, Culture and Society Conference, Munich

By Tom Borrup

Singapore skyline at night

“The built city is the most complicated cultural artefact humankind has invented,” wrote Phil Wood and Charles Landry in “The Intercultural City.” And as such, cities cannot be understood from any one vantage point or through any one academic lens. A small but significant conference in Munich, Germany, in late February 2010 brought a dozen of these lenses into one room and raised a number of timely questions relevant to all of us concerned with cities, culture and social equity.

The Creative Cities movement has spread across the globe during the past decade. Since 2004, UNESCO has promoted a Creative Cities Network highlighting cultural diversity, heritage and the unique products of urban centers. Nineteen current member cities, mostly second-tier cities, compete for the gold in literature, film, music, craft and folk arts, design, media arts and gastronomy. Corporate media outlets, meanwhile, focus on the dominance of cities and their industrial, technical, medical or financial titles. Titans such as London, Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, Singapore and Beijing compete for dominance in global finance and business acumen. Meanwhile creative-economy guru Richard Florida has turned the spotlight toward cities’ hip factor, their ability to wrestle for the top talent needed to power these 21st Century empires.

Does the Creative Economy or status as Creative City that so many North American, European and capitalist Asian cities aspire to, widen or narrow economic disparities? Is the idea of the Creative City more than the latest tourism marketing or corporate recruitment strategy? Is it an opportune rationale for repositioning investment, or a smokescreen obscuring issues of social justice, environmental sustainability and real inclusion for all people? Will Creative City Fever soon be replaced with a passion to be the Sustainable City, the Slow City, the Bio City, the Just City or just the Next Great City? (to read the rest click here)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

March 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Gentrification and the loss of music venues

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Reposted from History is made at night: the politics of dancing and musicking

Monday, March 08, 2010

Freddy’s: a Brooklyn bar facing demolition

If one threat to music venues is over-regulation through increasingly onerous licensing laws, another is gentrification. As land and property values rise, spaces of conviviality (pubs, bars, clubs) are often swept away by developers to be replaced by upmarket residential and retail buidings. In London, the clearest example is The Foundry in Shoreditch, facing demolition to make way for a hotel.

City of Strangers notes a similar case from New York, where Freddy’s Bar in Brooklyn is facing demolition to make way for the huge Atlantic Yards Development. City of Strangers ‘started hanging out in the very late 90’s, when I still lived in Fort Greene. It was nice having a good bar in walking distance. In those pre-hipster days, there weren’t many bars in Brooklyn with found video loops broadcast on a TV over the bar, or that played the whole Velvet’s Banana album or the Ramones or 80’s British punk. The back room featured everything from hardcore to experimental jazz’.

If the developers get their way, 16 high rise buildings will soon replace not only Freddy’s but a whole neighbourhood, including many pesky low rise buildings with controlled rents. Freddy’s patrons – some pictured below –have threatened to chain themselves to the bar to block its eviction.
History is made at night: Freddy’s: a Brooklyn bar facing demoltion

An urban neighborhood tells its own stories

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Over the last thirty years, the Iron Triangle neighborhood in Richmond, California has gained a reputation as one of the most distressed and dangerous urban neighborhoods in the U.S. One of the bright spots in the Iron Triangle has been the East Bay Center for Performing Arts. The East Bay Center has embarked upon the Iron Triangle Legacy Project through which more than 250 of the residents and artists are exploring their own culture, history and vision for the future through public performance works — music, theater, community gardens, photography…

Today, the Community Arts Networks posted an article by Jordan Simmons, artistic director of the East Bay Center, talking about this exciting project:

My Iron Tri-Angel: An Urban Neighborhood Seeks To Tell Its Own Story

By Jordan Simmons

My iron tri-angel,
You have with your damaged wings swept the white chalk from where
Syetha’s body’s outline lay quickly sketched on the pavement.
And whenever she laughs now, all the tears of the saints
Are close by. Still, what did she leave us?
I hit the spring-board and somersault up to the basketball net, legs wide
Open, and facing down before I dunk, I pray:
Little girls everywhere, little sisters everywhere,
Be careful when you cross the street.
Be careful when they shoot.
Be careful.

—From “My Iron Tri Angel” a new work-in-progress of the
Iron Triangle Theater Company, Richmond, California

“Just because you’re poor, it doesn’t mean you’re spiritually dead. Art comes from within. Soul: sometimes we lose touch of it in day-to-day struggle. We can help people come back to themselves. It is the easiest way to express that one is alive. When you create a piece, something that people can relate to or react to, it acknowledges that you are alive. “

— Anthony Allen, resident of Richmond’s
Iron Triangle Neighborhood

Here is an introduction to the Iron Triangle Legacy Project, a collective work led by East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and a ten-member advisory committee of neighborhood residents and activists. The work of the project is to tell the story of Richmond’s Iron Triangle, a neighborhood whose tale has been told by others in the media often enough, and deserves to be told by its own residents. The arts play an important part in the telling of this tale, and in the crafting of the project.

The Iron Triangle is a neighborhood in Richmond, California, of about 18,000 residents. Richmond’s overall population of 110,00 is rich in culture and heritage, and yet it has suffered from disproportionate urban blight and economic depression since its industrial heyday as a WWII shipyard, loomed over by one of the largest oil refineries on the West Coast and divided by railroad lines — hence the “iron triangle.” In 2004, both the local school district and the city made national news with their near bankruptcy. Since then, local public schools are regularly threatened with closure for failing to meet minimal national and/or state standards. “The Triangle,” as it is commonly referred to in Richmond, once a vibrant immigrant portal, is now a historical icon, marking the post-WWII migration of southern African Americans to the West Coast (many finding work in the Kaiser shipyards between 1941 and 1944); a destination neighborhood for California’s Mexican-American newcomers since the 1960s, and, since the 1980s, for refugees from the Southeast Asia Indo-China conflicts, especially from Laos. (to read more go to CAN)

For more info. on the Iron Triangle Legacy Project click the photograph..

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 11, 2010 at 11:23 am

The role of creativity, culture, and the arts in transforming cities and nations

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On Monday January 25, The Cultural Agents Initiative presented a dialogue of Mayor Antanas Mockus of Bogotá, Colombia, and Mayor Edi Rama of Tirana, Albania on the role of creativity, culture, and the arts in transforming cities and nations.

(From Community Arts Network): Mockus (mayor 1996-1997; 2001-2003), a philosopher, became known for springing surprising, humorous and tranformative initiatives on the popoulace of Bogota involving grand gestures. Painter Edi Rama, mayor since 2000, is known for his Clean and Green project in Tirana, resulting in 96,700 square meters of green land in the city, the planting of nearly 1,800 trees and the painting of old buildings in what has come to be known as Edi Rama colors (very bright yellow, green, violet).

For more info. check out:

Video of event

“Art can help urbanization speakers say” — The Daily Free Press

“Academic turns city into a social experiment” — Harvard University Gazette (2004)

One of former Bogotá Mayor Antanas Mockus' many inspired strategies for changing the mindset - and, eventually, the behavior - of the city's unruly inhabitants was the installation of traffic mimes on street corners. (Photo courtesy of El Tiempo)

Edi Rama, Mayor of Tirana” (World Mayor website announcement of the World Mayor for 2008):

The journey of Edi Rama, winner of the City Mayors World Mayor 2004 contest, to the mayor’s office in Tirana, the capital of Albania, arguably began in what most would call a raw and rough-and-tumble way inasmuch as, even though he, while still teaching at the Albanian Academy of Arts – admittedly a site of political ferment after the termination of communism and the birth of the Democratic Party in 1990 – had quickly left what he considered a bogus movement, and was doing no more than criticize both the socialists and the democrats in print, someone showed how seriously they took that by lying in wait for him in front of his home and beating him nearly to death. Mr. Rama is in no doubt that his attackers that night in 1997 were sent by then-president Sali Berisha…. (to read more, click the link).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm

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