Creative City and urban policy
The Creative City strategy is driven by four high-level outcomes: Brisbane People, Brisbane Experience, Brisbane Style and Brisbane Way. These four elements seek to evoke the essence of cultural expression and invite people to consider the manifestation of Brisbane’s cultural identity. This may seem a strong assertion in an age of globalisation and mass cultural consumption, however we are able to have a cultural connection that is universal as well as elements that are unique. Often it is the unique elements that provide a place with a very solid sense of cultural capital. Understanding these elements and building on the positives (for example Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate) provides economic, social and environmental opportunities. Sometimes cultural tradition is also problematic and central to contemporary issues of city planning, for example residents of Brisbane rate highly the need to prevent sprawl and retain green spaces – yet at the same time express resistance to density. This issue is, at its heart, cultural and its resolution will require changes in how we use private and public space, public transport and green space.
In terms of arts and culture, the strategy seeks to both support the arts in Brisbane to develop a rich body of work but also engage with the city’s culture. The recently opened Museum of Brisbane has adopted multi-disciplinary skills to create a space that tells the city’s story through artists, historians, sociologists, architects and health professionals in ways that continue a creative journey. Two new grants programs support artists to develop work that engages with the city, people, climate, ideas, stories and nurture their business and entrepreneurial skills.
In terms of creativity, the strategy places high value on the factors that support creativity, such as encouraging risk, connectivity and collaboration as well as access to resources for innovation. The strategy identifies that, to be a creative city, Brisbane will support creative people (grants, training, business support and recognition) foster places for collaboration (Ideas Festival and Brisbane Institute) and be a creative organisation (including an innovation network and champions).
But what does the strategy say about culture, creativity and urban design? The strategy is made up of outcomes, key platforms, indicators and leading projects. One of the lead projects is the Cultural Literacy Strategy. This strategy seeks to support some of the core elements of Council’s business, such as public infrastructure, planning, to better engage with the cultural significance/outcomes of their practice and support opportunities for creativity in projects.
Cultural Literacy in relation to urban design is defined in the strategy as being made up of the following elements:
- Cultural Awareness – the ability to see that our built and natural environment is part of our traditions, social values, beliefs, politics, technology and economy .
- Cultural Knowledge – the ability to take that awareness and then facilitate creative processes that enable the designer (as well as others) to read and record the specific dynamics, signs, signifiers, themes and design principles.
- Cultural Literacy -the ability to create meaning, dialogue, moments and aesthetics that resonate with the cultural elements of place and people. Cultural Literacy, when it is shared, ultimately leads to Cultural Capital.
A Cultural Literacy program is being implemented through an action-research based business improvement process that aims to develop the cultural literacy capability across City Design through collaborative projects. The program involves staff development and learning, real-time collaborative teams working on funded projects, and up-skilling via a meta-learning and documentation process.
Action learning processThe action learning process has established three teams with each team made up of an architect, landscape architect and cultural planner. The teams are working on the new central library and customer service centre, a new green bridge for the city, and the refurbishment of a major road. The process includes workshops to identify ways in which the teams can explore and develop the cultural significance of their project and options for this being expressed in the design and construct process. For example the green bridge is a highly significant project for the city presenting an opportunity to consider metropolitan messages about future transport and ways of living in the city that are ecologically sustainable. The bridge, designed for cyclists, pedestrians and buses, connects to distinct precincts together which may in itself become a regular ritual in the lives of thousands.
Through the process, teams are being supported and encouraged to examine their assumptions and choices about the projects they are involved with and document the process. On completion of the learning program, the three projects will be evaluated and a framework of guiding principles will be developed to become part of Council’s design units quality assurance and commitment to triple bottom line project services.
Ultimately the cultural literacy strategy takes the high level outcomes of the creative city strategy and provides a concrete example of putting policy into practice. The cultural literacy project allows the participants to stop and think about the cultural choices and messages they are involved with, emphasise the opportunities for creativity, and design outcomes that support the cultural significance of civic infrastructure.