Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Culture, Creativity and Spatial Planning1

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Culture, Creativity and Spatial Planning1

Article excerpt

In the past, culture has been a widely neglected subject in spatial planning. In a period of globalisation and increasing urban competition, however, the cultural dimension of urban and regional development has earned more atttention from academics and planning professionals in cities and regions. This article presents the various dimensions of culture in spatial planning and city building processes in Europe, its role for urban imaging and marketing, for local economic development and job creation, and for sustaining identity and quality of life for citizens in the twenty-first century

A virus called creativity

When looking through previous Abercrombie lectures, I realised that this is the first lecture to be given on culture and planning. So far the themes have been, among others, local economic development (Tietz, 1987), sustainable development (Newby, 1990; Owens, 1997), planning for Europe (Davies, 1993), architecture, civic design and planning (Stephenson, 1985), planning history (Hall, 1995), regional planning (Simmons, 1999) and ethics (Upton, 2002). Does the choice of themes suggest that culture has not been a concern of planning and planners since this series of lectures was started? I am afraid it does, and I wonder why? For various reasons, it seems, the cultural dimensions of spatial planning have not been considered in planning theory planning practice or planning education. Why is that the case? I assume it has much to do with a certain scepticism towards conservative cultural geography and the painful divorce from architects in planning schools. I could elaborate on this and also link my observation to the hesitancy of young people to become planners these days. However, I will not bore you with such an analysis. I will instead look into the relationship of cultures and the city, and city planning. I will also explore where spatial planners could promote the cultural dimension of urban and regional development across Europe.

There is a friendly virus, in the beginning of the twenty-first century. This friendly virus has affected the community of planners and could help us to survive as a creative profession. The virus is called creativity, sometimes creative milieu and creative industries, or even creative city (Landry 2000) or creative class (Florida, 2002). Originally the term was pioneered and introduced by Ake Andersson, the Swedish regional scientist (Andersson, 1985). Not surprisingly, creativity comes into spatial planning with culture as a backpack, a rediscovery of the controversial debate about the future of the European city (Rietdorf, 2001; Kunzmann, 2002). In the beginning of the twenty-first century culture and creativity have become key concepts on the agenda of city managers, development agents and planners, who are desperately searching for new foundations in city development with dwindling city budgets. Liverpool is spearheading this movement in Britain, or at least promoting it.

It seems the old paradigms of social and sustainable development are about to lose some of their former appeal. Is it a certain postmodern Zeitgeist, which supported the rediscovery of a dimension that did not play any major role in spatial planning during the last quarter of last century, in Germany, Britain, or the USA, though, by tradition, had a greater role in France and Italy?

In the style of American optimism I will argue in this paper first, that the cultural dimension of spatial development is a key to urban and regional development in 'Old' Europe, and second, that more imaginative spatial planning and creative governance are required to enhance the cultural dimension in order to maintain the European spirit of cities and regions across the continent. I will give some reasons as to why culture and creativity have gained so much attention, and, being a planner who does not have a background in cultural studies, I will develop some thoughts on how planners should cope with this new interest in the long neglected aspect of culture in planning, while hoping not to fall too much into the Zeitgeist trap. …

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