Creative Contradictions: How Urban Development Strategies Can Harm Creative Industries

In "Creatives in the City: Urban contradictions of the creative city," Elsa Vivant, a professor at the Université Paris Est Marne la Vallée, asks how the strategies of urban revitalization hamper the development of a creative economy. Vivant argues that city planners need to account for and support the precarious nature of creative individuals' lives when considering urban development strategies. She discusses the importance of urban planning strategies that "view the creative city as a city for the creatives" and design public policies which are designed to protect and foster this new "precariat class."

"Creative industries" refers to the industries that employ creative individuals, broadly defined as those workers who benefit through work producing intellectual property. These industries include traditional arts & cultural industries, as well as those which are linked to creativity, such as software development. These industries have been linked strongly to economic development; and recent management theory suggests that workers must emulate the artist in being flexible, mobile, creative, passionate. Vivant questions if precariousness is essential to creative work, whether uncertain, flexible conditions actually breed more creative work. She admits that multi-tasking is typically considered a sign of entrepreneurship; she also writes that the uncertainty facing creative workers might not allow for the length of time needed for creative work to develop. These conditions create a competitive, precarious workforce in which workers are willing to lower their demands so that they can get their 'foot in the door' with a prestigious client. In this way, a creative worker's personal life also becomes intertwined with his or her professional life, as an outing at the pub become "part of one's professional duties in order to maintain and upgrade self-employability."

Vivant believes that urban development strategies often are in direct contradiction to the needs of creative workers, pricing them out of the spaces they need to produce, network, consume, sell, and reside. However, some urban developers are taking note of the needs of creative industries and designing space for them. For example, new kinds of workplaces are being created which fit the needs both for production space and a space for professional socialization. These spaces, which can be rented for temporary work at inexpensive prices, help meet creative industries' needs for both flexibility and socialization.

Vivant criticizes the idea that all empty spaces can be developed into creative places: Berlin's off scene exemplifies how the construction of a 'creative city' can threaten those local social, creative centers which already exist and rose up organically; by planning and constructing on all spaces, they have removed all alternative spaces which foster creativity. She encourages urban planners to reconsider traditional urban planning strategies in favor of creating spaces which tap into already existing social networks of creative individuals.

Since creative workers are the most important component of building a 'creative city,' urban planning should not just focus on the economic bottom line, but rather on a way to support and protect those creative workers who are living under precarious conditions. The flexibility and casualization of the creative workplace has transformed workers in creative industries into a more precarious community. Vivant suggests that flexible creative spaces be built with the already-established creative networks in mind, as opposed to the traditional, but possibly counter-productive, urban development strategies of designing a new 'creative district.'

Vivant, Elsa. 2013. "Creatives in the city: Urban Contradictions of the Creative City." City, Culture, & Society 4(2): 57–63. doi: 10.1016/j.ccs.2013.02.003