Creative Spaces and Creative Cities

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Creative Spaces and Creative Cities
Min-Geun Oh 1) , Secretary General,
the National Trust for Cultural Heritage
The Perception of Reality
In 2004, I introduced Yokohama city's policy to promote Yokohama as the "City of the Creation of Cultural Arts" to the journal "Cultural City2) and Cultural Welfare" which is published by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute. Unsurprisingly, this introduction did not elicit any responses at the time of its publication, and it was only when I introduced the case of Yokohama city while I was active as an advisory member of the Landscape division of the Hub City of Asian Culture in 2005 that I was able to draw more attention to this example.
At the time, the entire country was becoming swept up in the rush of development in response to the projects promoting balanced regional development and culturally-oriented cities, and this was also the period in which the Korean media was in the first stage of giving coverage to foreign experts such as Charles Landry with his argument for Creative Cities and Richard Floridawho discussed the concept of a Creative Class.
Yokohama, of course, had already begun interactingand networking with creative cities in Europe, and had come to implement such interchanges as a municipal policy.
Also, even as soon as in the middle of the decade of the 2000s, Korea was entering an as yet immature stage in this area, still harboring great interest in event-based projects such as the "European Capital of Culture," in which we selected one cultural capital each year and concentrated support our on that city.
Gradually, as we reached the latter half of the year 2005, Korea began to initiate policy projects implemented by central government departments such as the project to "Create a Desirable City for Living" led by the Ministry of Construction and Transportation (currently the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs), the project to "Create a Historical Cultural Village" implemented by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (currently the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism), and the project to "Create a Desirable Region to Live In" enacted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security (currently the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs), the main contents of which focused on plans based on the participation of residents of the respective regions and the collection of their opinions.
Here I'd like to introduce an episode that illustrates the reality that not only central governmental departments but also the majority of experts and workers and activists who are within the field in question do not have a sufficient awareness of the importance and relationship between culture (art) and space.
At the time I was participating in the policy research project for the project to "Create a Desirable City for Living" led by the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, the research team were composed by separating the project into 5 fields, such as the "The enterprise city, the agricultural regions, resident participation, culture & arts" etc, and during the selection process for the members to be in charge of the "culture & arts" field, I found that I was the only person who had raised my hand. This fact indicates that, despite the fact that the academic organization to which the research team belonged had been active in the planning and design of spaces for around 60 years, the team had not deeply engaged with ideas on what "people" should be deriving from living in these spaces that have been planned and designed.
I experienced a great degree of surprise and perplexity at the time, but after the passage of 5 years, I am now engaged in the process of revising the guidelines for planning and designing spaces, and I perceive a significant heightening of awareness in the fact that we are seeking to reflect culture, history and regional characteristics within theses spaces. This is a fortunate development that is a cause for great relief.
As I transferred to the regional culture department of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2007, I planned and progressed to implement the project to support the effort to designate Korea’s domestic regional self-government system as part of the "UNESCO Creative Cities Network Program," in pursuit of the policy of promoting the development of regional self-government on the national level.
At this juncture, we gave a project explanation briefing regarding the 13 regional self-government administrations that we judged as possible candidates for applying to the UNESCO project within a short period, but the main questions that were raised was about "what amount the government will offer as support, and whether it will be possible to give 3 months of labor."At the time there were about 15 regional self-government administrations that were using our slogans including the terminology "creation or the creative city,"but most of these were using such terms to superficially spruceup contents such as tourism development. Even now, over 20 regional self-government administrations boast slogans that include such terminology.
Also, in November of 2008, I visited the international conference on the "Creative City" hosted in Yokohama to give a presentation regarding the progress made in Korea. This is when I examined the situation in Koganecho and Kotobuki that were being referred to as case examples of "creative space" and learned about the status of progress in Yokohama. Afterwards, in September of this year, Yokohama city again hosted an international conference on the "Creative City,"and I felt that the level of confidence was higher, with more discussions being conducted within the span of the past year in the form of interactions with foreign countries, etc.
Meanwhile, many regional self-government administrations in Korea, beginning with Seoul, began to produce policy projects that at least on the surface profess "culture" and "art," and in many locales projects were implemented to convert industrial heritage sites into cultural spaces and to construct creative spaces and offer artist residencies.
Economic recession, the change in climate, and Creative Spaces / Creative Cities
The dark tunnel of economic recession thatbegan with the U.S. financial crisis in the autumn of 2008 has shaken the entire world. Korea has been no exception, but various reports in the media claim that Korea is one of the countries that are most rapidly recovering from the economic crisis. It isunknown when this tunnel of economic recession will end, but it is worth considering whether at the end of this period the regional self-government administrations will still exist in its status quo or in a more developed state.
We cannot respond successfully to the socio-economic changes that will occur in the wake of the economic recession and the ensuing climate change with conventional and outmoded previous methods such as the promotion of industrial complexes. We must desist insisting on uniform policies andthe kind of projects which pursues such policies and stem inefficient expenditures of the budget, and must instead conceptualize policies and projects for each region’s residents that befit the regional conditions and international changes.
What is most important is to discover and foster talented human resources that can take charge of such work, and the best method for doing so is to for an environment that can elicit individual creativity through culture and art. The one factor that is so important that it should be considered half of the challenge is to construct spatial environments that can derive creativity. Such spaces should be provided not only in institutionalized educational environments, but in the form of creative spaces or creative milieus interspersed throughout various locations in our daily living spaces, so that people who are professionals or activists in cultural and artistic endeavors can freely exchange ideas and network with ordinary individuals.
Just because we wish to be "geniuses,"does that mean that it is truly possible to become geniuses by means of establishing a five-year plan to do so?
Perhaps people are misled by the word "city" that is included our objective "creative city," but the unfortunate realityis that the majority of those engaged with regional self-government administrations or those in the fields of culture, art and urban development, etc. who are interested in regional self-government seem to be under the misguided impression that a "creative city" can be formed by simply implementing a policy byestablishing a objective accomplishment date as is the practice for "urban planning" and by setting out goals for each subfield to be achieved by the end of each year.
To cite an actual case, if we examine the results of the research commissioned by a certain regional self-government administration for their "creative city"project, over 100 projects were indicated as being necessary to be implemented in order to attain a "creative city." In other words, the authors of this research signified that if these 100 or so projects were all executed by the objective year it would be possible to claim that a "creative city"has been established, but is this truly possible?
In this vein, it is possible to state the following:

"Creative City" ≠Urban planning || "Creative City" ≠dministrative zones for regional self-government
"Creative City" = Creative spaces
                        + [Creative human talent + ordinary individuals whose potential creativity has remained unexpressed]
                        + [The design of creative institutions & creative administration or governance]
                        ? (this remaining factor should be self-determined by each region according to their local circumstances)
Questions for BankART1929: to all the entities and individuals in Korea that wish to build creative spaces
BankART1929 began on a scale by utilizing two modern era buildings for culture and art. In the 6 years leading up to the present, we have also provided a space that performed an important role in establishing Yokohama city as a city deserving the epithet "creative city."
Weare curious to know the process by which we formed relationships between the administration, citizens, and the ArtNPO (civic organization related to the cultural arts) in order to attain such results. In particular, the relationship with Yokohama city is a matter of curiosity, because in the case of our country, in cases where the administration provides budgetary support, often the agents who operate the creative space often lose their autonomy. Or else, they are run as if they were organizations that serve as spokespersons for the governmental administration.
We would like to know if BankART1929 had faced such challenges and how they were overcome.
Secondly, I am curious to know how you are able to plan such a wide variety of programs. As far as I know,
programs are run there year-round, and I would like to know how this variety of programming is determined in terms of their objectives and motivations.
Thirdly, how is the space of BankART1929 utilized in cases where there is no set program?
It is my assumption that programs cannot be maintained for 365 days a year, and therefore I presume that there will be periods when the said space is not occupied by programs.
And here’s my fourth question: if BankART1929 is to continuously fulfill its role as a "creative space," what elements do you think will be required? Also, I would like to know what contributions such "cultural arts spaces" make to the regeneration of urban environments.
Comments regarding the formation of Creative Spaces in Korea: focusing on the case of Seoul Art Space Geumcheon
Currently in Korea, under the aegis of Seoul Metropolitan City’s Art Factory Project, venues known as "creation spaces" are being built, including Seoul Art Space Geumcheon as well as other creation arcades in Moonrae-dong and Shindang-dong. It is apparent to everyone, of course, that "creation space" is not synonymous with "creative space."
However, I hope that we are not misled to think that simply remodeling "creation spaces"and inputting artists into such venues will be sufficient for culturally and artistically revitalizing that space and the region to which it belongs. That is, I hope that such venues will not be limited in applicability to the assigned people (artists).
In order to enable this "creation space" to become a site where communication with the region can occur, I encourage all to engage in thoughtful consideration of regional considerations, through both the programming and the operations of the staff. The priority should not be on scouting external visitors, but on the laborers who work at the factories that exist nearby.
It would be better to avoid the example of the "art creation space" that has been built in the vicinity of the Chinatown district of Jung-gu, Incheon city, where the feelings inspired by the old russet bricks of the Korea Express warehouse has utterly disappeared, replaced by the new creation space that is still made of red brick but exudes an unfamiliar, brand new image. As demonstrated by the success cases abroad and by the case of Yokohama, I hope we can create spaces that give respect to and take consideration of the unique characteristics of the respective regions. Moreover, I hope we won’t have committed regrettable oversight of details that could have been avoided, such as in the case of the glaringly shiny stainless steel facilities that jar with against the red brick buildings of Incheon city’s "art creation factory."
It would behoove us to be aware that when the Sage Gateshead music venue was designed in Gatehead city of England, where the population is 200,000, consideration was given to both the principles of universal design and scenic design, and that in Yokohama City, the Creation Central District blends the ideals of both urban design and public design.
As seen in the map below, visitors will either arrive in Doksan station and walk the way to Seoul Art Space Geumcheon, or reach the Factory by another route by moving to the Siheung road to the right and boarding public transportation means such as buses or taxis, and it is my hope that the regional self-government administration will provide the expenses for the formation of spaces along that route based on the principles of "public design." There is a need to install direction guide signboards that are safe, pleasing and easily noticeable without being egregious and to design guardrails unique to Geumcheon-gu that will ensure that pedestrations may arrive safely.

If visitors are forced to stress about avoiding cars, or are so confused by the directions that they must be constantly looking about or stopping to ask directions or referring to the map, by the time they arrive at the Art Factory, they will have lost their enthusiasm to engage with "art" and will be resigned themselves to merely having a In the two satellite photos above (information searched from the DAUM portal), observe the atmosphere of the roads leading from Doksan station and the Siheung road to the Seoul Art Space Geumcheon (area encircled on the map). It is apparent that even in this area where there are a lot of factories, there is sufficient potential for forming a creative industry. In other words, if the creative industry takes the form of a creative cluster, and if the Seoul Art Space Geumcheon fulfills its mission to become the launching point for cultural arts creation in this region, it will establish itself as a creative space serving the local citizens in the nearby residential districts, in linkage with the area’s educational institutions and the Anyang-cheon. Moreover, it will provide the opportunity to build a positive image of the region, and will lay the foundation for the revitalization of the region.
I hope that we will continue to pursue opportunities for engaging in continuous exchanges and networking with organizations and case studies from both Korea and abroad, as we have done in today’s event. Through such efforts, we will need to develop unique programs and seek improved ways to operate our spaces, and gradually build up self-sustainability so that we may gain autonomy from the governmental administrations.
Words of thanks
I would like to express my deep gratitude to the representatives of Seoul Art Space Geumcheon, who allowed me this opportunity to take part in today’s discussion, despite our short period of acquaintance based on a couple of public engagements. I have the strongest faith that the head of the factory, Mr. Gwang-Joon Lee, will lead the Seoul Art Space Geumcheon so that the space will become renowned in both Korea and abroad as a notable creative space with creative administration.
I would also like to thank Mr. Ikeda Osamu, who came to Korea despite his busy schedule to introduce his experiences in operating BankART1929. Moreover, I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for willingly taking on the translation of "Creative City Yokohama," which provides an overview of the policy project for "cultural arts creation city Yokohama" that the city of Yokohama has hitherto implemented, despite having only met me a couple of times at public events after first exchanging greetings in the beginning of 2007, when I visited BankART1929 out of both personal academic interest and also in pursuit of planning the national policy as part of my work. Lastly, also deeply thank Mr. Kuniyoshi Naoyuki,the executive urban designer for Yokohama city, for his assistance in this regard.
Min-Geun Oh (2008), "The Creative Utilization of Culture: From Urban Regeneration to Creative Cities," A Quarterly Hwanghae Culture, Summer Issue.
Min-Geun Oh (2008), "Revitalization and Cultural Utilization of Closed Spaces Uncovered in Seoul," Cities, Culture and People, Issue No. 2, Seoul Culture Forum.
Charles Landry (2006), The Art of City Making, Earthscan, etc.
1) After serving in the Spatial Culture Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and as the expert advisor for the Regional Culture Department, I am currently working in the post of secretary for The National Trust for Cultural Heritage. After engaging for ten years in research related to scenery and regional revitalization, since 2006 when I joined the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism I began to devote myself more closely to the efforts to culturally transform our living spaces by drawing upon the history and culture of respective regions. In the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, I planned projects including the "Project to Build a Art Creation Belt Through the Reinvention of Industrial Heritages," the "Project to Support the Designation of Korea’s Regional Self-Government System as Part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network," and the "cultural map" project.
2) The term "creative city" that is currently widely employed in Korea is becoming even more indiscriminately applied without sufficient awareness of its significance after the Korean translation and publication of Professor Sasaki Masayuki’s book The Challenge to Build Creative Cities. A direct Korean translation of the term "creative city" places the emphasis on "creative," which reflects the understanding that the characteristics of all the cities hitherto recognized as creative cities have indeed all been "creative."