Monday, January 11, 2010

Hamburg Resists the Creative Class

Hamburg, Germany has been seeking to revitalize itself by following principles outlined by Richard Florida in books like "The Rise of the Creative Class." Some interpret this as a move toward gentrification and seek to retain the gritty, seedy character favored by some artists and counter-culture creatives.

German magazine, "Der Spiegel", documents the issues around the Hamburg controversy. Click on the heading above to see the complete article.

In his theory, Florida argues that cities must reinvent themselves. In contrast to the 1990s, they should no longer attempt to attract companies, but people. More specifically, the right people -- people who invent things, who promote change and who shape a city's image. He has classified these people as the "creative class." It's a theory that has had unintentional consequences -- including bitter conflicts in places like Hamburg.

Richard Florida has become rich and famous as a result of his ideas. He is now one of the most popular speakers in North America and received a thousand requests for speaking engagements in 2009 alone. His books about the "creative class," and about why it is crucial to the survival of every city, are bestsellers, and his theory has been elevated to an axiom of modern urban development.

In Europe, hardly any other city has relied on Florida as heavily as the traditional trading city of Hamburg. A few years ago, Hamburg's science minister distributed copies of Florida's book to the city-state's administration and since then they have tried to enact many of the ideas.

Grunge versus gentrification is a continual debate in urban planning and revival. Some people like their cities to be a little messy and raw rather than clean and well-maintained. What do your students think? Can designers create a "grunge" style to replace vacant buildings without gentrifying neighborhoods?

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