Urban Design 106 - Spring 2008

Creative Cities

Publication Date: 01 April 2008

This issue of Urban Design examines Creative Cities. – a concept widely talked about, but rarely clear to many. Topic Editor Judith Ryser has assembled a first class group of contributors from across Europe, Africa and Australia, and introduces the articles with a review of early ‘creative industries’, the universities that grew from them, and more recently whether today’s places and spaces are conducive to encouraging creativity and innovation. This issue is about creativity as a process and a way of solving problems; innovative strategies for economic development and future management; but also proposals for places to inspire and motivate us in daily life.

Charles Landry takes this further to explore the future for the creative city, where ‘ordinary people can make the extra-ordinary happen if given the chance’, describing the city as an organism and not a machine. He challenges us to adopt a creative approach to place-making by re-assessing our priorities in management, design, transport, resources and infrastructure. Alfonso Vegara describes the Fundación Metropoli’s unique approach to making spaces for the creative eco-economy, defining clusters, components and city profiles of excellence to give cities a plan for change based upon their existing character, with examples from Spain. Maria Tena Justice describes the Fundación’s own home in Madrid - The EcoBox – which exemplifies a creative place in its design, purpose and inhabitants.

Antwerp’s Mayor Patrick Janssens describes the city’s approach to the new Strategic Spatial Structure Plan, linking the city, river and port, with a diverse and family-friendly population as their target. Kate Brennan, Chief Executive of the company that manages Federation Square in Melbourne (featured in UD98) describes the creativity required to maintain and develop this important civic space in Australia as a source of inspiration to others. Robert Huxford revisits ways of realising liquid assets – the waterways threading through towns and countryside, showing the value of innovative approaches adopted.

Mervi Illmonen and Klaus Kunzmann write about Arabianranta in Finland, an urban extension that has taken creative industries as its theme and principal product in the university campus, while Juan Pradas and Jose Carlos Arnal illustrate the interesting Milla Digital project in Zaragoza. Both places draw upon IT to enliven everyday activities in the regeneration of urban districts. Gerfried Stocker artistic director of Ars Electronica describes this innovative body established in Linz Austria, with its festivals, facilities and agenda, ranging from encouraging multidisciplinary interaction to engaging the city’s population in urban installations.

From Durban in South Africa, Peter Robinson and Richard Dobson describe a process of redesigning an urban interchange from the grass-roots level up, where the creativity displayed by local people demonstrates Landry’s early belief. Andy Pratt concludes the topic with a challenge to understand urban creative industries as this is a major source of economic power.

This issue also sees two more short listed case studies for the Francis Tibbalds Urban Design Project Awards – from Urban Initiatives and JRUD. A new feature The Urban Design Interview is kicked off with independent urban designer Amanda Reynolds giving her opinions on life, the UDG and good cities. John Punter begins a series reviewing the ongoing ESRC comparative seminars debating the impact of ‘Urban Design and the British Urban Renaissance’ in different cities, with reports from Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff and Nottingham. Alastair Donald describes a project which is being developed to enable more self-build neighbourhoods, cutting out house builders, their house types and soulless estates. Claire Johnson of CABE outlines the continuing success of the Europan design competition.

There are also reports of conferences, events and talks hosted by the UDG, the TCPA and Urban Design London, and an obituary for the Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, who influenced street design ideas to work for people, not just cars.