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Creativity and City Rebirth
Posted August 19th, 2013 in Uncategorized by Rick Hill

Dithyrambalina11In my last post, I discussed the historical symbiotic relationship between art, fashion, entertainment, and commerce. I shared with you how art, technology, and design have inspired some of our most creative and original community spaces, including the very early shopping malls designed by Victor Gruen.

 

Urban revitalization and rebirth occurs in short and dramatic creative flourishes stimulated by discoveries, technology breakthroughs, and innovations that generate an influx of capital and people from diverse backgrounds. The mixing of money, people, opportunity, and the lack of accommodating social institutions, inspires the human imagination to achieve great leaps in creativity, resulting in city transformations.

Peter Hall, in his book Cities in Civilization, describes how cultural creativity results in urban re-generations that evolve out of a fusion of diverse people, art, and technology and economic innovation in times of a “society in flux.” Examining cultural eras, Hall chronicles the great renaissances of the world, from the scientific, mathematical, and philosophical discoveries and advancements in ancient Athens to Renaissance Florence in the early fifteenth century, and from the golden film era of Los Angeles to Memphis’s pop music scene and, finally, Silicon Valley’s digital age. Hall deftly explains how discoveries, inventions, and radical innovations have inspired entire cities as belle époques, providing the opportunity for significant improvements in the quality of community life.

However, the planners, architects, and city builders of today often fail to recognize that the built environment must be a product of the contemporary culture of its communities. Likewise, they fail to recognize that creative expression, cultural production, face-to-face communication, human collaboration within open and free social institutions, along with opportunities for education, wealth generation, and personal enrichment all work together to create sustainable economic growth and better communities.

Conversely, modern industry—and politicians—are too quick to identify early signs of a trend, often in another city, without first attempting to understand what is truly emerging. Unfortunately, in this era of rapid communication and almost collaborative consumption, anything considered “good” must be replicated and monetized in the most prime locations, and then strip-mined for votes, popular opinion, and profit. Time that is measured according to election cycles, quarterly earnings, and looming economic downturns seldom allow for incubation, nourishment, cross-pollination, filtering, and refinement of ideas that require enhancement through a collective community creative process.

The result is an increasingly dumbed-down built environment characterized by a lack of repurposed urban districts, commercial strips that are too quickly discarded, declining neighborhoods, failed civic projects, and an absence of lasting community-wide inspiration.

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