The ephemeral city
Russell Degnan

Recently, I talked about the importance of festivals in cities such as Melbourne. The basic argument was that there isn't a sufficiently large market for most cultural activities to sustain them year-round; hence the need for festivals.

In Metroplis this month is an interesting article on cities pursuing "tourism, culture, and entertainment" in the absence of more traditional economic activities.

The interesting aspect is it works against the idea of promoting a "creative class" on the basis that "there aren't enough yuppies to go around".

I am not sure either way. On the one hand there are substantially higher numbers of young singles living in inner-city areas now and pursuing an energetic lifestyle. This is a class that previously didn't exist in large numbers - at least from the 1950s - and which will drive inner city growth, even if it is in a seperate direction from the suburbs.

On the other, this statement is quite true:

"In the past, achievement in the arts grew in the wake of economic or political dynamism. [...] The extraordinary cultural production of other great cities--Alexandria, Venice, Amsterdam, London, New York--rested upon similar nexuses between the aesthetic and the mundane."

Perhaps in a globalised economy, the creative and leisure classes can live seperately from the productive class, not just within the context of a city, but in the context of a state or nation. But I doubt it. The provision of services implies proximity and that still means the same city.

It raises many questions on the way cities tune their economies, and the way certain economic activities are catered for within the urban context. I speak especially here of zoning for large industrial or business parks. Catering for culture is nice and all, but we shouldn't forget the jobs that really count.

Sterner Matters 21st April, 2005 02:00:18   [#]