Creative City Case Studies


Sebastièn Darchen examines the feasibility of applying the concept of "creative cities" to urban regeneration efforts, focusing on one district in downtown Toronto. He does so by assessing the role of entrepreneurial groups in establishing policy aimed at reviving the district. Ultimately, Darchen finds that such groups use the creative city rationale to pave the way for self-serving real estate development. They take as a given that a new business district would attract creatives and foster cultural growth, without defining, among other things, what groups of creatives would be attracted and how.

Darchen, Sébastien. 2013. "The Creative City and the Redevelopment of the Toronto Entertainment District: A BIA-Led Regeneration Process." International Planning Studies 18(2): 188-203. doi: 10.1080/13563475.2013.774147


Meghan Ashlin Rich offers a meditation on applying Richard Florida's creative class concept to smaller cities, using Scranton, Pennsylvania as a case study. Rich concludes that Florida's approach is useful as a general guiding principle for revitalization strategies; however, she emphasizes that such strategies must often be modified to highlight the desirable attributes unique to smaller cities. In Scranton's case, this includes quality of life defined more broadly than "amenities" (e.g., including low crime, good schools, inexpensive housing) and strong social ties, which benefit revitalization efforts in spite of Floridian implications to the contrary.

Rich, Meghan Ashlin. 2013. "From Coal to Cool: The Creative Class, Social Capital, and the Revitalization of Scranton." Journal of Urban Affairs 35(3): 365–384. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9906.2012.00639.x


Sig Langegger examines the curious success of the Peace Garden, a community garden in Denver, Colorado that was created in a vacant lot on private property yet has since been transformed into an essentially public space. Langegger explores sociocultural particulars of the community that ensure – against all odds – the garden's sustainability, discovering that the disparate uses for it and meanings attributed to it by varied neighborhood groups allow it to thrive. A place of deep cultural importance for longtime Latino residents, a vehicle for integration for newer members of the community, and a functional plot of land for those interested in local, organic farming results in a space revered by all.

Langegger, Sig. 2013. "Emergent Public Space: Sustaining Chicano Culture in North Denver" Cities 35: 26–32. doi: 10.1016/j.cities.2013.04.013

Barcelona and Madrid

Clemente J. Navarro Yáñez examines neighborhood change in Barcelona and Madrid between 1991 and 2001, both of which hosted major cultural events in 1992: the Olympic Games and the European Capital of Culture, respectively. The most notable effect was economic growth in neighborhoods with already high socioeconomic statuses. Only a small number of neighborhoods (4.46% in Barcelona and 2.54% in Madrid) underwent processes of gentrification in which a neighborhood's low socioeconomic status and traditional culture (historical sites, museums) were transformed into high socioeconomic status and expression-based culture (performance venues, art galleries). Thus, the potential "dark side" of creative cities is the reproduction of socioeconomic inequality between neighborhoods within a city.

Yáñez, Clemente J. Navarro. 2013. "Do Creative Cities Have a Dark Side? Cultural Scenes and Socioeconomic Status in Barcelona and Madrid (1991–2001)." Cities 35: 213–220. doi: 10.1016/j.cities.2013.05.007


In this article, Emma Felton examines creative industry workers located in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. The creative industries in the study are located in industrial parks due to the availability of large spaces at costs lower than what is available in the inner city where gentrification has produced increased rents. The diversity of tenants within the industrial parks allows for the exchange of ideas across disciplinary boundaries (e.g., between welders and photographers) thus fostering business development. Felton notes that the success of these suburban creative enterprises challenges the notion that creative industries can only flourish in inner-city environments.

Felton, Emma. 2013. "Working in the Australian Suburbs: Creative Industries Workers' Adaptation of Traditional Work Spaces." City, Culture & Society 4(1): 12–20. doi: 10.1016/j.ccs.2012.12.002


Kate Shaw's study maps the locations of independent creative subcultures in Melbourne, Australia between 1991 and 2009. The subcultures are associated with low- or no-profit events that feature music, visual/performing arts, crafts, or film screenings. Due to their low entry thresholds, independent subcultures can transform consumers into creative producers and contribute to a city's cultural vitality. The movement of subculture-clusters within Melbourne demonstrates a paradox within the creative city discourse. Culturally vibrant subcultures move away from areas of economic development due to increasing property values; thus, economic development and cultural vitality appear to be mutually exclusive. Planners and policymakers must choose whether to prioritize maximizing the capitalization of land or fostering these subcultures.

Shaw, Kate. 2013. "Independent Creative Subcultures and Why They Matter." International Journal of Cultural Policy 19(3): 333-352. doi: 10.1080/10286632.2013.788162


Yongzhong, Naping, and Minghua examine the rapid rise of creative industrial parks in China, taking Beijing's 798 Art Zone as a case study, and argue that the development of these parks is far ahead of any theoretical basis. They write that creative industries are initially drawn to an area based off of 'the loop effect,' which refers to arts organizations being attracted to areas of highly concentrated creativity activity, and thus attracting more creative activity. But as creative industries develop in this cultural zone, so do commercial industries; rents then rise, creatives are unable to afford to enter the cultural zone, and creative industries spread to the periphery of the park. Yongzhong et al demonstrate that policy-performance relationships are not always linear, meaning that past policies that spurred growth will not necessarily continue to spur growth. Thus, while certain policies may help to bring in creative industries to an area, the same policies will not necessarily keep them there. Yongzhong et al encourage thoughtful planning by city officials to have a comprehensive, long-term plan for allocating space and other resources, as well as crafting policies that offer privileges to artists, and targeting enterprises to come into the area after it is developed, to maintain a healthy creative ecosystem.

Yongzhong, Yang, Lin Naping and Lin Minghua. 2012. "How to Form a Creative Industrial Park: Theory Analysis and Policy Exploration." Creative Industries Journal 5(1-2): 43-53. doi: 10.1386/cij.5.1-2.43_1


Florian Urban of the Glasgow School of Art provides an overview of the development and construction of Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, completed in 1990. The design was the subject of more than 30 years of debate, producing three different models, and the process coincided with the city's transition from manufacturing to creative and service industries. The development of the designs served as a "seismograph for the socio-cultural state of affairs." Urban argues that the third design, which developed a magnetic urban atmosphere through a strong city center that connected culture and commerce, allowed Glasgow to become a prime example of the post-industrial city.

Urban, Florian. 2013. "Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall and the Invention of the Post-Modern City." The Journal of Architecture 18(2): 254-296. doi: 10.1080/13602365.2013.787540