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Impact Of The Creative City Theory Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 4100 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The creative city has become an amazingly popular concept in recent years. Along with the appearance of Richard Florida's book The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), and Charles Landry's The Creative City (2000), it seems that every city is developing a creative city policy. At the same time, the creative city concept is under serious debate in the academic world.

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Nevertheless, a gap exists between the academic literature that discusses the development of the creative city on a conceptual level, and the actual policy development in individual cities. On the one hand, many cities base their policies on limited sources. These include the works of Landry and Florida. On the other hand, cities take over the content of successful creative city policies such as Barcelona or Lille. They update their own policies then with the concept of the creative city (Chatterton, 2000, p. 392). In a similar vein, Russo and Van der Borg (2010, p.686) state that the relation between culture and urban economic remains largely 'a black box in which cities move like amateurs. Accordingly, creative city policy tends to be ad hoc rather than moving towards the professionalization of creative activities (cf. Jayne, in: Evans, 2009, p. 1011).

In the next chapters, firstly, we will summarize quickly academic literature explaining the concept of the creative city in more detail. Secondly, we will review policies of four Dutch cities described by Kooijman and Romein (2007) to find out more about the presence of creative city elements. Finally, we try to find out what the impact of the creative city theory on practice policies really are. In the discussion there are a few critics that have some interesting points of view and we contemplate on the usefulness for my graduation project.

Concept of the Creative City

Knowledge-based activities are of crucial importance for the growth in modern urban economies. Some regional economists claim that local clusters of linked industries and institutions in specific sectors are essential elements for urban competitiveness. People-based perspectives emphasize the importance of highly skilled and well educated workers as the key to economic success. Although many members of the creative class are high-educated, Richard Florida stressed in his books (Florida, 2002, 2005) the importance of creative talent for economic growth. Following his train of thought, it is primarily the capacity to generate new ideas, new knowledge and technologies, and new forms and content, and the ability to solve complex problems, that determines whether technologically-advanced companies decide to locate and invest in a city. Florida's assumption is that 'jobs follow people', rather than that 'people follow jobs'. Local economic policy should thus be primarily aimed at attracting creative people rather than business. It is a well-known fact that creative people prefer urban places with an attractive living environment, a good 'quality of place'. If a city can provide this, creative people will settle, and investment in creative, productive activities will follow. According to Florida, this means that places have driven back companies as key organizing units in our economy. By means of the metaphor of the '3Ts', he sums up the qualities of places: technology, talent and tolerance. Technological capacity is seen as a prerequisite for economic success; flows of talented people are regarded essential, since these are the carriers of creativity; and tolerance is thought of as the crucial magnet, the supply-side foundation upon which creative clusters are built (Peck, 2005, p.746). Besides the '3Ts', there is a broad array of other factors that the creative class takes in mind when making decisions. On the basis of both theoretical and operational findings, Trip (2007, p. 31) concluded that diversity, specific amenities, liveliness and culture are key-concepts that generate a 'creative life packed full of intense, high-quality, multidimensional experiences'. It can also be assumed that creative talent attaches great importance to the presence of 'third places which are neither home nor work', but forms of outdoor leisure and entertainment where information and ideas can be interchanged (Florida, 2002). This is not seen as an activity which is strictly separated from work and only engaged at certain times of the day, but rather as something which interacts with work in a process of personal and social creative growth. It is interesting to note that Florida's thesis builds on the notion that former 'established dichotomies such as culture versus economy, work versus leisure, production versus consumption' (Mommaas, 1999, p. 177) are becoming less relevant in understanding how an increasing number of people live in cities, and how individual cities prosper.

Policies in Practice

To get a better inside in the implementation of the creative city theory in the policies in practice I will give an explanation of the policies in four largest Dutch cities investigated by Kooijman and Romein (2007). They made a methodological framework using the 'policy philosophy model' developed by Vermeijden (2001). In this model there is made a distinction between three major components. The normative core contains the basic principles and guidelines of urban policy that consists of the motivation and legitimation of plans and proposals. The policy core is based on concepts, strategies, themes, programs and policy objectives. It elaborates the normative core into policies. The secondary aspects consist of the practical core of implementation includes the legal, administrative, financial and organisational framework.


Economic policy in Amsterdam views as a key concept for economic performance. Currently the city is focusing on both banks of the IJ river and in the Eastern Port Area, by realizing large consumption venues, including a film museum. They are also strengthening the attractiveness of public spaces (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2004a), urban living (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2003a, 2005), and the city as a consumer environment. The city doesn't exclusively focus on the creative class, nor at highly skilled workers. This because of the fact that the city already more than 50 per cent highly skilled workers. Instead the city aims both to encourage creative talent to settle and tourists to visit. Interesting is that they don't distinguish different target groups. They claim that if the city is attractive to its inhabitants that it is also attractive to creative talent and tourists. Nevertheless, the last few years they paid more attention to their traditional characteristic tolerance and open atmosphere. Recently the Spatial Planning Department replaced its top-down, supply side, design-focused planning approach. They are experimenting with a more demand-side and the role of the local government as mediator. They are actively searching for target groups, costumers and market players to sort into product-market combinations. Amsterdam sees city and region as belonging together. Amsterdam and Almere have thus recently developed the concept of 'twin city'. Amsterdam has also focused on strengthening production with the Science Park Amsterdam. This cluster of high-tech industries is an early example of Dutch knowledge-based urban development policy. With regard to creative and cultural industries, since 1999, the city has invested in a 'broedplaatsenbeleid'. This new policy was the outcome of the clearing large-scale 'old buildings' and a boom in the private construction of commercial mainstream developments. Affordable locations for new creative initiatives became increasingly scarce. And several of the initiatives moved to other cities. This made the local government realize that a valuable kind of economic capital was being destroyed. The policy aimed to take abandoned factories, warehouses, and similar buildings out of the property market, and place them at the disposal of small-scale, start-up enterprises in the creative and cultural industries. They did this, to provide affordable working and living spaces. (Van Ulzen, 2007, p. 181). The only other initiative to strengthen creative production has been the creation of an inventory of creative businesses, including characteristics of their production environments. To provide an empirical basis for possible future policies. (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2003b, 2006a, 2006b).


In Utrecht in the policy there is a focus on consumer environments notable as well. Two documents (Gemeente Utrecht, 203b, 2003c) aim at the strengthening of the inner city as a hospitable meeting place. Hereby there lies an emphasis on the hospitability sector and the leisure sector. The leisure note (2003b) seek to attract more visitors to Utrecht in order to create jobs and revenues. While the Economic Note (2003c) positions Utrecht as a meeting place for talent. This should draw people to live and work in the city. However, this talent could be described rather highly trained than creative. Those two documents reglect an entrepreneurial approach. This is also present in the Memorandum on Culture (Gemeente Utrecht, 2005), where the economic potential of consumer environments is the foremost priority of the policy-makers. The consumption-oriented policy in Utrecht tries to a achieve culture and leisure services in specific areas of the city. The emphasis lies here on the city center. The intention is to create a consumption environment with new shops, catering, cultural services and nightlife activities. The purpose here is to compete successfully with Amsterdam. In addition, area developments have been planned around the central railway station. In the Leidsche Rijn center there is developed a second heart that would generate 80,000 new residents and 40,000 new jobs. These projects include large scale consumption programs. A new music hall, multiplex cinema and a multi-purpose theatre. Finally, large-scale mono-functional retail, sports and recreation projects are planned at the edges of the city. All of these projects reflect the ambition of Utrecht to become a leisure center of national importance. Policy in Utrecht focuses explicitly on reinforcing the cultural and creative production than Amsterdam (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, 2005). Just like Amsterdam did, Utrecht mapped out its creative sector, but the intention of Utrecht is to use this map actually as tool for strengthening the creative production. The municipal departments of Economy and Culture are attempting to support creative companies by equipping seedbeds and multi-tenant buildings. Utrecht is hereby more explicitly geared towards economic goals than Amsterdam. This is reflected in Utrecht's explicit intention to improve the quality of cultural and creative entrepreneurship. Of all four cities, Utrecht is the only one that is engaged ina regional platform of municipalities, collaborating on production. The objective of this is strengthening networks of creative and artistic businesses with other institutions and companies like, educational institutes and banks. The city has a close alliance with the Province via the long term cultural program, Vrede van Utrecht (Treaty of Utrecht, 1713). In the years coming to the third centenary of the Treaty, there will be organized many events. Investments in cultural production will be made that explicitly aim to position Utrecht on the international map of cultural destinations. The focus is not limited to cultural and creative industries. The Economic Memorandum (Gemeente Utrecht, 2003c) focuses on other sectors as well. Business and medical services. The latter is an example of knowledge-based urban development. The aim is to strengthen links between educational and research institutes, healthcare services, and industry. The approach is more explicitly entrepreneurial than Amsterdam . There is a finer balance between the consumption and production based policies.


The production and consumption-oriented policies in Rotterdam are to be concerned of the grown awareness that the city has about the fact that it lies behind the other three major cities. Due to relatively strong orientation on capital-intensive manufacturing and logistics, lowly skilled labour force, and a low intensity of knowledge (Gemeente Rotterdam, 2004b). The aim of its consumption oriented policy is to improve the city's attractiveness for residents, visitors, and tourists. This policy has clear economic roots, although the relative strength of the economic perspective differs between local government departments and agencies. The municipal Department of Art Culture's Cultural Plan 2005-2008 (Gemeente Rotterdam, 2003) puts major social and educational goals forward. The mission statements of the Ontwikkelingsbedrijf Rotterdam (OBR) and the Economic Developmetn Board of Rotterdam (EBDR) are spatial economic in nature. Their consumption oriented policy clearly reflects an entrepreneurial approach. The OBR chaired the inter departmental Working Group that was responsible for developing the vision of the city's leisure and entertainment provision in 2001( Gemeente Rotterdam, 2001). This vision connected twenty-four locations (mostly in the center and on the waterfront) with ten different leisure themes (shopping, modern architecture, cultural heritage, sports and port, maritime and water related activities. Specific combination of themes was developed for each location. The vision acted as a framework for inviting entrepreneurs form the leisure industry to invest in the city (Gemeente Rotterdam, OBR, 2004c). Like Utrecht, Rotterdam, explicitly aspires to strechthen its leisure economy. And they also acknowledge the importance of large consumption projects in area development programs. Indeed, the building, extension, and renovation of sports facilities, multiplex cinemas, theatres and museums have been features of urban policy since the 1970s. Furthermore, Rotterdam places significant emphasis on large scale, outdoor summer festivals. In 2005, Rotterdam won the 'National Festival City of the Year' award for the second time. Rotterdam has developed a policy that focuses directly on encouraging creative production. This is more explicitly than Amsterdam and in a more elaborate way than Utrecht. This is emphasized in the Economic Vision 2020 memorandum (Gemeente Rotterdam, EDB, 2004a). This is even further developed in two policy documents (Gemeente Rotterdam, 2005b; Gemeente Rotterdam, EDBR, 2006). The former reflects the priority assigned to the development of audio-visual expertise in competition rather than cooperation with other cities. Rotterdam makes work of creativity is a more general policy document that denominates four promising creative sectors for further development. The document distinguishes four types of creative zones. Those are areas where designated policies stimulate concentrations of creative businesses. Visibility through clustering is considered as a precondition for a successful creative-sector development. The intention is that the creative cluster, the medical cluster and the portbound industries should create the international profile of Rotterdam in the near future (Gemeente Rotterdam, EDBR, 2004a). For the creative cluster in particular, the local government aims to focus on improving the city's quality of place.. This in order to attract and retain students and other creative people. However the most policy initiatives concerned the Creative City aim on more on production instead. This includes the upgrading of entrepreneurship and improvement of adjustment of the knowledge infrastructure to creative production (Gemeente Rotterdam, OBR, 2005a; Gemeente Rotterdam EDBR, 2006). The role of the local government in the expansion of these three sectors of local economy is to facilitate the process of cooperation between businesses , knowledge institutes and municipal departments. In some locations, there are policies aiming to improve urban consumption and strengthen creative production are being combined with large scale area redevelopment programs. In the Lloydkwartier and the Kop van Zuid, leisure, residential developments for the new middle class are being developed alongside cultural and creative sectores. The Kop van Zuid had already been designated as a strategic urban development program in the early 1980s (Ter Borg and Dijkink, 1992). Amsterdam's IJ-oever and Utrecht's Central Station area are also focusing on area redevelopment, but not so explicitly in support of creative production.

The Hague

The Hague is a city that attaches a great deal of importance to culture. It seeks to strengthen forms of small-scale cultural production by stimulating these to interlink with consumption. The keyword is integration and the intention is that producers of culture should be more open to the public. Moreover, the intention is that established actors should themselves open up to local producers, to create public for the latter. However, local memoranda (Gemeente Den Haag, 2005a, 2005b) state that no changes are needed with respect to retail policy. Leisure policy is less relevant tot the creative city. It is consumption-oriented, and aimed at larg-scale facilities in general and the business tourist in particular. Two areas in The Hague conspicuously represent this approach. The city center and the Scheveningen beach resort. A notable aspect of the local policy is the potential link between culture an economy. There is a suggestion that previously separate policy areas and social domains could be linked to great effect. Linkage is needed in order to allow different economic sectors to profit from one another. The city is actively using its real estate to implement local policy. The city region of The Hague has perhaps the highest amount of inter-municipal co-operation in the four largest Dutch cities. Comparable with Amsterdam's proactive approach, The Hague is initiating meeting to answer the interests of cultural producers. A large number of networks are being organized in order to bring the relevant parties together. Producers, theatres and real estate owners (Gemeente Den Haag, 2005c, 2005d). However, discussions exist about the border of the city. Retail and leisure are issues of discussion with secondary cities in the environment (Stadsgewest Haaglanden, 2002, 2006) In addition The Hague is holding talks with Delft about developing the ICT sector. One clear advantage is the location of the University of Technology. The Hague is in discussion with the secondary city of Leiden on the possible relocation of part of the city's university to The Hague. Knowledge based urban development is and increasingly important field of urban policy making. The Hague is at disadvantage as it is the only one of the four largest cities without an university. The policy discourse is at least as explicitly entrepreneurial as that of the other three cities. Altough the two directions, the stimulation of large scale consumption projects and the stimulation of cultural industries, are present in all the four cities. The policy of The Hague is most openly entrepreneurial due to the formulation of specific product-market combinations. The municipality is looking for big spenders. Tourists or high income workers that not yet live in the city. The city aspires to be 'business-like' and a 'reliable partner'(Gemeente Den Haag, 2005e)

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Impact of the Creative City theory

The four cities have adopted strengthening competitiveness for post-industrial economic growth as a main objective. Just like Florida (2005) they try to attract the highly mobile flow of creative talent. Though the impact of Florida's work it has hardly impact on discussions on the policy's normative core. However one interprets Florida's position on the social aspects of the creative economy, this has played no big role in this debate in the Netherlands. Lastly the plea for an open and tolerant social climate in cities does neither appear to have had a significant impact on Dutch policy. The multicultural harmonious Dutch climate, on the contrary, has changed towards the adjustment of diversity to fit the Dutch cultural values and norms. The debate about social inequality, is an issue in Dutch cities, but is separate from the debate on the value and utility of Florida's thesis.

The policy core aims to achieve a strong competitive position and good economic performance. Regardless of Florida's aversion on standardized and tightly-scheduled forms of consumption the four cities have planned and developed these new commercial programs anyway. The four cities focus less on improving hard to grasp place quality. Instead they do on direct and explicit support of economic production. One of the tactics of the government is to put old buildings at the disposal of creative producers. The four cities do not have blind faith in the notion that jobs follow when a high quality consumption for the creative class is established. The policies involve small scale production of cultural activities and creative businesses in Rotterdam and the cultural sector in The Hague. However, they pay at least attention to the clusters based on knowledge and the medical clusters in Utrecht and Rotterdam. Moreover, Florida's most important argument, of the creative class, is not prominent in the current policies. Rather the cities aim at attracting graduates and highly trained professionals, to boost scientific knowledge-based sectors, as well attracting visitors and tourists.

One obvious aspect is the cooperative network that links institutions with young talented creative producers. For instance in Utrecht the educational institutes took the initiative over the government. The perspective, however, is more local, and cooperation between different municipalities is limited. The impact of Florida on the organisational framework is very limited because he doesn't really gives specific details in his books.

Conclusion & Discussion

The influence of the Creative City theory is considered very limited in the urban policies of the largest four Dutch cities. Florida's vision on urban economic development fits so good that it hardly adds something new. Neither regarding social development nor tolerance had a significant impact on the four cities. The emphasis of Florida lies on creative people, while the policies use the label creative for production. Florida's thesis appears to be little more than a source of inspiration that has been interpreted widely, in order to stimulate creative industries in the context of broader economic growth. There has been no development of governance arrangements that contribute to a more competitive city.

Important criticisms these days on the potential of the Creative City theory on sustainable economic growth are. It is a long way from the improvement of qualities of place to economic growth. Second Atzema (2007) states that it is extremely difficult to define who belongs to the creative class and who doesn't. Another criticism is that the suggested interrelation between living, working and leisure is extremely difficult to put into practice (Van Dalm, 2007) Finally Florida's model is typical North American metropolitan area. Very different than the Dutch urban environment, this demands that issues related to qualities of place should be place in a different perspective.

For my graduation project this review study has been quite useful. It made me see how different Dutch cities are dealing with creativity in their policies. My project is in Amsterdam which makes it very interesting to notice how other cities are dealing with the same issues. This brought me also more to the understanding that the success of the creative industries are really place specific, while those place qualities are difficult to plan. Therefore those strategies are probably most successful on temporary bases in non planned environment. Desolated industrial areas are really suitable since they have a strong sense of identity. Furthermore it is interesting to see how the implementation of theory in this example is overestimated. Creativity is used as label for production. This insight provides my graduation project with numerous long term possibilities while the creative industries can be used in the trajectory transformation.


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