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creative capital

edited August 2004 in architecture
I was listening to Minister Lyn Kosky speaking at the opening of Victoria's State of Design Festival the other day. She gave a lengthy speech that emphasised the diversity of Victoria's design talent, and how the government and RMIT have been working to lower entry barriers to the design industries for youth. All worthy stuff, and very reminiscent of American Richard Florida's writings.

Florida's "Rise of the Creative Class" has had many MPs and mayors buzzing with excitement. I've heard the basic premis of the book (I haven't read it) is that if you encourage creative sorts to live close in to your town, they will stimulate the economy for you. Like live cultures thrown into a jar of yoghurt mix. His argument is summarised in
this smaller essay. It basically tells any cities that want to prosper to be as hip'n'cool as they can. Families and 'burbs and blue collar jobs are not as cool for the economy as tattooed young graduates being creative all night in grungey studios downtown.

While all this attention can't be a bad thing, it isn't really the creations themselves that the pollies are interested in, more the economic advantage in concentrating design activity within their constituencies, and not someone else's. The flyer for the Festival notes that, "growing Victoria's design capability will increase our global competitiveness, attract new investment and create jobs."

A friend of mine wondered if there was a danger in slickly packaging Victorian Design and selling it on prime time like this. He was thinking if there were parallels with Melbourne's laneways, which were discovered and promoted heavily by Tourism Victoria and the council, much to their detriment.

If design is going to be packaged by the State, what kinds of design? It seems from the State of Design Festival's exbihition at Melbourne Museum that good design this year is modern and urban - we are not seeing the latest in doilies, car jacks, and nappies here. It's the first year, so it will be interesting to see how this exhibition broadens in the future, while maintaining the consistency that an exhibition needs.

Another friend said while we were walking through the exhibition, "where's the process?" Yes, the back breaking, late night, 8 cents an hour part... If governments are interested in supporting the many tiny creative businesses in their cities, a more effective way might be to focus on helping those businesses stay afloat.

Some links:

A bleak future, if imagination is not nurtured

Andrew Refshauge, deputy premier of NSW
"I also like the idea that instead of having the arts we can afford, we need the arts for the economy to boom."

Richard Florida HQ

test your city

Canberra wants YOU

The Right don't like : "The Curse of the Creative Class"


  • edited January 1970
    I did the test for Melbourne. 30 out of a possible 100. I made sure that I did not forget that the only thing the staff in my (Architects) office are, Footy, The Herald, Footy, the pub, Footy, Suburban life, Warnie, Trash Mags, TV.......... The Arts/culture? Wots vat?!
  • edited January 1970
    ......oh, and there are some in this company who have never been to a gallery or 'festival' because the would no know where to park
  • edited January 1970
    The lack of response is quite telling.
  • edited January 1970
    Karrie Jacobs yesterday in Metroplois Magazine:

    "[Richard Florida's] distillation of creativity into the kind of prescription routinely proffered by management consultants makes me fairly sure that what he's selling is not the virtues of creativity but rather the ingredients of a formula."

    She has read the book and decided that the definition for "creative class" might easily describe the "yuppie" of the 80s - ie youngish people with degrees who spend lots of money on food and drink. The class is very broad, including, "management, business and financial operations, law, health care, and high-end sales." Creatives as we might imagine them to be, poorer sorts interested in the arts, fall into small subset called the "Super-Creative Core". Sounds a bit radioactive.

    Florida's overly-debated ideas might not really be about getting lots of stencil-spraying flash gurus into the city, but more about getting more wealthy professionals in who like to spend.. creatively. This could be why this proposition has been seized upon by councils and governments - lure in more of this 'creative' crowd and more businesses will open to cater to them. In turn the city becomes much more attractive as a place for offshore businesses to set up a local base - they need cities that will be vibrant yet safe - places where their wealthy professional staffers will be comfortable living.
  • edited January 1970
    Having worked in Council for a number of years I saw the spread of Richard Florida's ideas among council officers. Florida talks of "creativity" as something inherent to the person because of the status in life. This is a creativity for which you don't have to do anything creative at all. It may sound convincing to some until you read the book.

    What he called "creative class" is in my opinion, no more than the wealthy elite, the new and young who have dismissed studies of philosophy, arts, or any other creative area, for those new opportunities that give quick money for the new hi-tech industries. Creative according to Florida are the computer program developers, or so called "architects", they could also be accountants.

    If anything, I give him the credit to having put the term creativity upside down - no many can do this and get away with it - as for Florida, creativity is not the realm of the artists (painting, music, architecture...), but the domain of those who can buy it.

    These ideas are very handy for some councils undergoing gentrification, as they can present the change as attracting the "creative class" rather than the old fashion wealthy. It just makes it more palatable to the old working class locals that will have to move away.
    Florida went as far as to describe the new "creative class" as the type of people who would travel with ease anywhere in the world, while enjoying all those different local food tastes ( I believe he was talking of airplane food and local 5 star hotels!). They would also be able to speak a few languages. I believe he generally means two languages including English, please note that I am not quoting.

    By the way, I met a few East Timorese that would be happy to try any food at all, most speak up to five languages, so do most of the people in Morocco. The Timorese work and actually produce goods! They don't go around the world contaminating and producing not much at all - but sorry, they are not the creative class according to Florida.
  • edited January 1970
    Richard Florida has been interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald. It's a peculiar take he seems to have... On the one hand, he says Sydney is in danger of losing creatives because of the house price escalation, and on the other, well I'll let him speak:
    The creative economy has to be socially inclusive and connect with the peripheral workers. We in the creative class can't allow ourselves to be served by an impoverished class that takes care of our lawns, makes our food, washes our cars. We have to make those positions better jobs.

  • edited January 1970
    Was great to see Geoff Fitzpatrick inducted into the Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame recently.

    Good to see talented Victorians acknowledged nationally, there are so many of them.
  • edited January 1970
    Geoff Fitzpatrick? Did he play for Carlton?
  • edited January 1970
    actually that was Mike Fitzpatrick, but thanks all the same ... :evil:
  • edited January 1970
    Geoff Fitzpatrick? Who?
  • edited January 1970
    Richard Florida has been in Perth. They now want to get all hip n cool n rolling in creative wealth in Perth. But some are not so sure that it's worth sacrificing old ways of life for new money.
    Urban planner Ruth Durack: "Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to manufacture (debate about) creativity?... Essentially this is a very conservative population, with an easy life in many ways, and they're anxious about changing it."
    THE OZ 18.08.06,20867,20163965-16947,00.html

    The Australian also reported on a wild west footpath brawl (of a sort): "Durack says a perfect example of that conservatism is the controversy over a 17,000sqm extension to the historic Treasury Buildings in Perth's CBD. An irate Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass was recently pictured on a public footpath arguing with architect Geoff Warn that his jagged-edged, ultra-modern glass and steel design - which is supported by the Heritage Council - would ruin an "iconic" old building."

    If you're wondering what they were arguing in the streets about, you can see pictures of the building here. And this news release from Donaldson and Warn's website gives a hint of the tensions.
    (Excerpt) Lord Mayor, Peter Nattrass is keen to have the project cancelled on the grounds that the contemporary architecture is unsuitable and that the proposed new building be replaced with lawn and trees... a city park. This is in direct opposition with the State Government and project architects who believe that the historic buildings should be carefully adapted and reused thereby integrating them back into the fabric of the city.

    The Lord Mayor has insisted that an early sketch model be displayed in the Hay Street Mall to seek public opinion. The Lord Mayor, Cr Max Kay and Cr Sutherland have been present in the Mall between 12 and 2pm and will continue this until next Wednesday 19th July. The model is poorly displayed and the Mayor has expressed his objection to additional images and support material being used to give the public a better understanding of this complex project.

    Obviously the Mayor and Councillors are skilled campaigners and are generating public opposition to the project. The results of this opinion poll are intended to pressure the Minister to cancel the project.

    There is obviously much more at stake than this building alone, such as the influence and approach of the Government Architect and the future of contemporary design and creative expression in the city’s evolution.
  • edited January 1970
    This might be the best opportunity we will get to export Allom Lovell Architects to Creative Perth. Remember, they are good. Just ask the Victorian (irony) Chapter of the Institute of Architects.
  • edited 10:23PM
    Kind of topical as the 2009 Victorian State of Design fest draws to a close, Richard Florida is back on the radar in an article in the Toronto Star ( via archinect ). Apparently he swept into Toronto to live and raised the bristles on a number of local activists and academics.
    The Star on tries to sum up some rather negative views:
    "To them, Florida is a pitchman, an opportunist, an elitist, a sham. Worse, he's here, in our city that works. And our city is listening. And now the province is, too."
    "His ideas are exclusive, divisive, and naïve. He is dangerous, they say. And he needs to go."
    Heather McLean, of the Creative Class Struggle group, says of the Florida credo, "it's a very celebratory and safe way of looking at capital accumulation... People like cool places, sure; they're positive stories. But there are people that get dispossessed, or removed, or erased in these narratives."
    Stefan Kipfer, of York University's Faculty of Environmental Studies, says Florida's output has changed since he went commercial (on a rather nice salary): "It's research designed to sell. This is no secret; Florida makes money as a consultant, so his fame is really based on his ability to convince a client to buy his product... That's the thing about salesmanship and research that is consultant-oriented: It develops not concepts, but catch-all terms that work differently in different contexts."
    Hard to tell here whether Kipfer is protesting Florida ideas or his working outside the presumeably unbiased universities.
    Florida protests the protests. "There are lots of people who say, in order to attract the creative class, we need to build latte bars, and music venues, and stadiums... In critical theory, that's what happens to a text. People have been very effective on both sides in framing my work." Is he sincere when he says, "I'd love to engage these groups, because I think what they have to say is important, and actually, I find myself... I find myself agreeing, intuitively agreeing, with much of their critique."
    It would be interesting to hear from the Victorian Government, five years down the track, what their design boosterism has done for Victoria. To address their 2004 statement that  "growing Victoria's design capability will increase our global competitiveness, attract new investment and create jobs."
    And have designers' experiences working with and for the various levels of government improved in the last five years?
  • edited 10:23PM
    no it would not be interesting peter to hear from the Victorian Govt.

    whats been done to the concrete floor of Fed Square Winter Garden is illustrative enough of the big picture.
  • edited 10:23PM
    Yes that's now a bad gloss floor. Maybe people were trying to graffiti it..
  • edited July 2009
    ha ha ha ha ha.

    didn't think of that.
    probably the cobblers gave advice on the solution.
  • edited 10:23PM
    'bad gloss floor'?? Can't footballers and architects see thier reflections in it. Or ex footballers and ex architects? Sometimes the same person.
  • edited 10:23PM
    Not clear enough - I meant "bad to have it glossed", not "badly glossed". Not too clever with the language at 2am.
    Now what was the topic again...
  • edited July 2009
    be both peter.

    to the topic. there seemed to be more design around before it became a design city.

    The floor at Fed Square and the things that go on it = Prof Kim Dovey chanting the new baby boomer tram route city mantra today. Dovetail had his mouldy old kennett voodoo doll out and probably burned a Keating effigy he'd kept spare before he went to work today.

    Kennett = an idea of melbourne as tokyo? take the entire city and double its density. democratic?
    sustainable? possible? doable? 1/50th done. Canned a crap museum in the wrong place and put it in a better place and ran a red hot international comp and almost built it. minor achievements. Design from the top down. No BS.

    The 21C bozos = A city modelled on a free range egg farm, a bracks stump with shit gold tables on a cancer molecule kath & kim plastic floor. einstein fix up is tram track Paris facade western town?
    as if getting punters to the slave factories on time after the petrol runs out is an idea about a city.

    Design weak suggestion for melbourne. Hold a shut the f$%k up festival for the next 10 years.
  • edited 10:23PM
    @peter the warn press release is years old. new govt, new lord mayor, several major comps and 2 arm buildings have all happeed since. not saying perth is a different place but it is better that the long hair's sloppy out of date web site.
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