Charles Landry

The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators

The “creative city” was a concept developed by Charles Landry in the late 1980s and has since become a global movement reflecting a new planning paradigm for cities. It is described in his The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators and other writings.

The Creative City when introduced was seen as aspirational; a clarion call to encourage open-mindedness and imagination implying a dramatic impact on organizational culture. Its philosophy is that there is always more creative potential in a place. It posits that conditions need to be created for people to think, plan and act with imagination in harnessing opportunities or addressing seemingly intractable urban problems. These might range from addressing homelessness, to creating wealth or enhancing the visual environment. Its assumption is that ordinary people can make the extra-ordinary happen if given the chance. Creativity is seen as applied imagination.

In the Creative City it is not only artists and those involved in the creative economy that are creative, although they play an important role. Creativity can come from any source including anyone who addresses issues in an inventive way be it a social worker, a business person, a scientist or public servant.

It advocates that a culture of creativity be embedded in how urban stakeholders operate. By encouraging legitimizing the use of imagination within the public, private and community spheres the ideas bank of possibilities and potential solutions to any urban problem will be broadened.

This requires infrastructures beyond the hardware – buildings, roads or sewage. Creative infrastructure is a combination of the hard and the soft. The latter includes a city’s mindset, how it approaches opportunities and problems; its atmosphere and incentives and regulatory regime.

To be a creative city the soft infrastructure includes: A highly skilled and flexible labour force; dynamic thinkers, creators and implementers. Creativity is not only about having ideas, but also the capacity to implement them

The Creative City identifies, nurtures, attracts and sustains talent so it is able to mobilize ideas, talents and creative organizations. The built environment – the stage and the setting – is crucial for establishing the milieu. A creative milieu is a place that contains the necessary requirements in terms of hard and soft infrastructure to generate a flow of ideas and inventions. A milieu can be a building, a street, an area, a city or a region.

The popularity of creativity came about because of the increased recognition that the world and its economic, social and cultural structures was changing dramatically. This was driven in part information technology revolution. The old way did not work sufficiently well. Education did not prepare students for the demands of the new world; organization, management and leadership with its control ethos and hierarchical focus did not provide the flexibility, adaptability and resilience to cope in the emerging competitive environment; cities whose atmosphere, look and feel were industrial and where quality of design was low were not attractive and competitive.

Coping with these changes required a re-assessment of cities’ resources and potential and a process of necessary re-invention on all fronts.

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