Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Cultural Impact Studies II

Part 2 of 2

3. Methodological and Conceptual Considerations

Certainly this movement from A to B and the consequence it has upon the urban structure - e.g. congestion in Palermo as in Galway - is a problem to be faced by all cities. Impacts range in terms of kinds of movements (on foot, public transport, cars), that is of both people and goods, over varied aspects, and what they achieve at what costs. As Anne Pender stated in her paper “measuring the unmeasurable”, more movement (including crowded pubs) may mean more business and an economic growth, but also all kinds of problems / negative impacts such as more pollution, traffic congestion’s, one-sided or merely functional use made of only certain parts of the city while at the same time other areas are severely neglected.

Impacts have to be described in terms of structural, pivotal and motivational features at a first level. This the level of cultural needs being articulated at key reference points and followed up as a ‘way of life’. Thus it might be wise to include gravitational centres or districts depending what they feature and attract people; the same applies on the other scale as to what repulses people and makes them leave.

There are equally fictional spaces which exist and do not as long as no one makes use of them. In Berlin streets are usually very empty as if life does not exist despite 4 million people living there and yet take on ‘love parade’ and there are 1 ½ million dancing out on the street. Once they are gone, the quietness of the street returns and no one seems to know where the activities of life have gone.

So within one and the same city - in the past it was down-town as compared to up-town - impacts have to be described in terms of measures used to promote a specific area while making use of certain potentialities which existed there already prior to any planning intervention. Definitely the square around the opera house whether in Palermo or in Leipzig can be compared before and after the intervention in terms of what people remember and what they do not see anymore happening or else, as in the case of Palermo, is happening again.


Impacts of different types of movements have to be observed and monitored with focus upon:

CIED tries to make evident that the different types of movements must be observed in order for local and regional authorities to remain capable of dealing with practical situations. The instruments for that are not so easily to be named nor readily at hand, rather they have to be developed out of a learning process and since new functional uses will have consequence for land use / public space demands, that in turn has to be accounted for in terms of the real impacts upon people’s life’s.

Decisive for any economic development is, therefore, the ability to retain a quality of movement and to ensure that at all times the articulation of demands shall be made in terms of which resources and infrastructures of city shall be used. This has to be done in such a way, that use leads to ‘good practice’ in everything what everybody does.

How a city wishes how people make practical use of the urban environment in order to know how to shape the overall profile, that depends not only upon ‘signs of life’, ‘people coming back into the historical centre’, etc., but what quality is reproduced out of this new use of the old or how ‘cultural heritage’ becomes a major guideline for city policy. For the impact things will have upon the ‘memories of the communities’, that is not only upon physical artefacts, but upon the identification process through retaining access to memories and vivid pictures which include glimpses of the future, is itself a measure which the city wishes to uphold or not, depending on how cynical or not ‘governance’ has become.

Hence CIED does pay attention to the problematic side of any use, namely when abuse leaves negative imprints and threatens the social and cultural cohesion. About all kinds of abuse more needs to be said, but proper use depends upon culture providing orientation, that is access to resources based on respecting certain key values. It seems validated through CIED that this goes hand in hand with preserving and restoring cultural heritage while allowing contemporary culture to bring about such kind of innovations as energies are freed and synergies made possible in the direction of ‘good practice’. Knowing the consequences of what one is doing should be, therefore, a prime outcome of all these different kinds of interactions taking place every day and throughout the entire and different life cycles of the urban environment.

From a city’s overall viewpoint, infrastructural requirements and prerequisites need to be monitored in terms of movement of people and goods along with what kinds of uses are made or rather what new demands require a restructuring and modernisation as much as impacts of new transport routes will make themselves immediately felt in flow of movement and living quality altered due to accessibilities and/or different economy of time. Aside from key nodal points of interactions which can be redefined in terms of modern cities and their economies, movement in a city is not only from A to B, but from A to B to C to D back to B and then on to E. Markets and their networks create their own distribution patterns while in long terms allocation of resources, but also valuable venues, the city will transform itself out of some areas remaining completely neglected while others, there were the high income families reside, will strive to emancipate themselves from common constraints any city imposes upon every kind of development. The linkage between urban structure and type of economic development is, therefore, not yet so evident in terms of what activities a city must give in to, if it is to remain alive and a dynamic factor for future development.

Given the difficulties of identifying what factors contribute, are desirable and which lead to over demanding of resources, indeed abuse of the city as such, CIED uses here ‘culture’ as a discourse aiming to find out ‘best practice’ in deciding use of former industrial sites and buildings. This use does not need to be another cultural project, but the impact of such a project or re-use should satisfy cultural criteria such as being complex enough so that people can identify themselves with it and still learn out of using it in a new way. Use can be categorised in terms of growing up (need for ‘safe places’), learning (schools), working (production sites, but also places where money can be earned to indicate that work and making a living are interconnected and thus make up the existential structures of a city), living (houses and environmental neighbourhoods - concepts of living areas), leisure (different kinds from pubs to parks - walks along the sea side and sport places), regeneration (part of the sustainability strategy of a city), etc.. It is interesting to see how many different areas for specific use any city identifies at any given time and how they are interrelated. The degree of being planned or responded to positively in terms of letting things develop over time spontaneously, that decides also how the city’s governance is judged in terms of overall performance. For the tools range here from tax incentives (e.g. Palermo - letting use of public space be tax free provided the restaurant owners hired artists for street performances), facilitation’s especially of type and quality of infrastructures (water, electricity, waste disposal, street cleaning, traffic regulation, additional types of services - neighbourhood, old aged, children - etc.) while on the population side, composition, age, gender, cultural diversities shall play a leading role in what develops within that area. Naturally what is offered shall attract or else discourage specific types of people and here again movement and mobility can be influenced by which needs are being catered to. Finally, it is a conclusion of CIED that after such practical considerations to be made by local and regional authorities, they have to be most observant as to the ‘cultural dissemination of information’, since this is a key to how people come to identify themselves with the city as a whole and especially with the district where they live, work and seek leisure. Old models of social integration along with mixed functional uses do not work the moment their complexity reduces itself to mono-functional abuses. Since more attention has to be given to how people come to identification patterns based on cultural consensus, that is the ability to share this with others, it is not enough to have mere use. Identity building processes require more active participation in order to reaffirm and to validate everyday anew the identity of non-identity as mediator with the identities of the others. That means use of culture and therefore cultural infrastructures such as an innovative network of museums lends itself, therefore, to a measure of the impact of the city upon its ‘cultural adaptabilities’ to changing needs.

4. Articulation of needs

Indeed, the city must facilitate the articulation of needs, the resources for satisfying them and how use is made of them under economic constraint’s to fulfil this cultural demand to stay open, complex, innovative and consensus orientated.

Articulation of needs resources made available to satisfy these needs

Culture - discussion about basic needs / artificial ones

- setting of constraints, conditions under which these needs can be

satisfied and control over expansion (building e.g. use of physical

space - indicators, set of institutional response mechanisms and

qualitative assessment criteria)

- character of the city and its people: openness, complex, innovative and

consensus orientated / co-operation and competitiveness - culture as

linkage between internal and external economies

- city development and impact upon not only the overall development,

but this ability to satisfy needs, including cultural ones

Here by ‘articulation of needs’ has to be understood as not a cultural given, but depending upon cultural diffusion, a reflection thereof what needs are recognised and can be articulated within the urban space. As Lewis Mumford points out, the city passes on knowledge in a much more sophisticated and interesting manner than any technical recording mechanism, whereby he would include libraries, universities, street markets, small cafes since through the intermingling of people both formally and informally speaking the knowledge basis of the city is secured. Here then we speak no longer of just one specific cultural pattern of adaptation, but of broken spectacles which allow the learning process to take place within different routes, time settings and modification possibilities. It is not directed towards the sameness of place, but towards a kind of constant upheaval of old assumptions. Life goes on but under different conditions. The inclusion of nature in this opting for urban life has thus examples in trees providing shade on squares where the old people sit in the evening to chat, in the cat that lives in the backyard while window sills become small gardens and balconies even bigger micro-parks, wild ones at that. The reflections upon need for water, air, light, silence, warmth etc. are but basic principles off-setting the otherwise over demanding and equally stimulating city life formed through the ages by ongoing changes no more just generational alterations in life styles, ways of working and living, but in dispositions towards existence as a kind of self-proclaimed form of identification with the place and its surroundings. This solidarity may be will lived or not depending on the degree a belief in the city exists or not. Certainly Barcelona’s turn around prior to the Olympics in 1992 made possible the revocation of the belief in the city by also stopping or at least attempting to draw a line against suburbanisation trends in favour of the city. The urban orientation is the urban alternative. Out of it configurations of space allow for the evolvement of articulated figures of speech which shall remain in and with the city even long after all those who had first invented and used them are gone. That is the nature of the city: to allow for such articulation as it questions all assumptions and yet promotes the reaffirmation not only in a dialectical, but even twisted way until the little places within the overall complex take on qualities of a life of their own, e.g. the two men working in a car repair shop and becoming for all car drivers something like a fountain where not only tires are exchanged, but information, small bits of conversations testifying to this ongoing restlessness which is at the root of any city being alive.

4.1 cultural infrastructures

The term ‘cultural infrastructures’ denotes also that some mediation must be sought between different types of movements, including those of goods, since retail businesses and service centres have to be included in what people not only need, but what becomes their criteria for location.

All too often CIED made the mistake of looking only at inward investments while neglecting the needs of people. This need has been touched upon only indirectly by the term ‘memories of the community’. After all one need could be to preserve the character of a place, that is not every kind of change is accepted, while from the other side those activating change may go through different phases of disillusionment until in their deeper resignation their success becomes one of being extremely conformist to a market rule. Whether or not that is true in all cases, that the progressive element is not lost, such histories in the making involve generational changes and social adaptations to new possibilities. They are defined right now very much by technological potentialities and at street level they are the growing shops selling if not fashion clothes then some high tech product, in particular mobile phones. Yet a look at Paris would again caution against these things overruling and over dominating a specific space, for the laundry services and hair makers are everywhere to be found in a society putting a high value on appearance. It leaves little to bargain or negotiate for, since it is a simple matter as to who can afford these things and who provides these services since that is a specific wedlock about which to philosophise is not entertaining, but rather a story to tell about how interlocations within cities mean certain set pattern of jobs, types of services (in Brussels as elsewhere the food catering business near the large administrative complexes is also such a nebulous sight because so highly artificial dependent upon one and only one set of customers) and tight rules to keep this business up front running. For obviously it is not sufficient and can scarcely make ends meet, so that the over exploitation becomes visible when there is no extra investment being made at the concrete location and the artificiality but a stage used for a certain time while forgotten the moment anywhere else.

4.2 quality of place

Thus the ‘quality of a place’ became a crucial parameter within CIED and impact was measured in terms of improving upon this quality.

That involved in the case of Palermo the criteria of people not only staying in a place, but others moving there so that a general upgrading between pilot interventions and immediate surrounding took on the level of appraisal what kind of investments people would make themselves in their own quarters and in the spaces in-between private and semi-public places. Here Zisa and its surrounding area is becoming a crucial measurement of further development, that is also how factory walls are torn down and participation out of an immediate social structure made possible.

In Galway, quality was taken care due to an urban renewal based on mixed functional usages being planned and implemented as such, but the solution there is not entirely satisfactory since inhabitants have become seasonal residents staying there perhaps three months of the year in their downtown apartments located above parking garage and market passages.

For Leipzig it is difficult to focus on truly decisive factors which would then be no longer just a mediation between infrastructural requirements and needs of the local population, because ‘cultural adaptation’ compared to influx of outside users (tourists / customers / users of certain services and facilities), would first of all seek an integration of all decision making processes affecting especially traffic planning and restoration of historical buildings, in order to retain the character of place.

Volos shows that cultural factors (architecture + cultural heritage) once neglected, left often schools and other public spaces devoid of any meaning, downgraded and forgotten, especially if not integrated into sustainable structures capable of supporting substantial activities outside the usual or common centres of attention as defined by commercial activities. In the case of Volos, this meant a conscious relocation of resources and reopen public spaces together with restored industrial buildings, so that work of memories are reactivated. The vision of a mayor is here very important, but also what kind of policy allows for public participation.

Cardiff shows, as an example of the other cities, what neglected cores can mean as a potential new cultural quarter, once these cores would cater to other or rather new needs, e.g. the former Coal Exchange Building and its surrounding area called the Mount Stuart Square to the needs of the multi-media industry. This novel attempt at conversion of a historical site while retaining a vital linkage between financial, industrial and residential activities within one and the same cultural space would invite people to re-activate the area right now still dismal and neglected.

To develop ‘good practice’ here, means paying attention to those involved working in the cultural sector (art festivals, hotel workers, tourist guides, people working for bank exchange counters etc.) and those in the primary, secondary and tertiary urban sectors (e.g. sewage and waste cleaners, teachers and social services, administrators and urban designers). For all are forced to adapt to the technology led developments and forget in the process the differentiation’s needed to sustain these different sub-systems upholding life in a city.

4.3 cultural governance

In the light of this, the crucial question for CIED has become the ‘cultural governance’ as measure of the discourse practised within a given urban grid. Culture should allow people to identify themselves as belonging to the place and together with the local and regional authorities assure that the needs and issues identified are being dealt with in a proper manner.

Such discourse would be very informative, if exact (in terms of needs and possibilities while very practical, accountable and justified through practical experiences) in the reflection of cultural regeneration possibilities. The main criterion of culture being involved in such a reflection is the ability to motivate and to allow for a comprehensive viewpoint on what matters most within the next phases of development.

If planning is to become a cultural process, then that is itself dependent upon such a comprehensive viewpoint from emerging out of cultural discourses (talking and listening to the people affected by the plans and planned interventions) and forms of dissemination of information.

Cultural sustainability as criterion of good practice leading to a positive development implies that the identity building process which goes along with that fulfils the need for ‘cultural consensus’ needed as democratic legitimisation of decisions to be taken.

Again that would mean the validation process any decision has to go through is itself a reflection of a mixture of consultation practices and consensus seeking measures within the framework of political accountability. The measure of good decisions is that they allow for the time framework to be defined by what people need, desire, wish and want als part of an overall expectation what would give them the motivation to add ‘extra value’ to the places of work, living and freedom. Once such framework conditions can be created as mediation between the ‘political will’ and the tools/resources to be used for implementation purposes, then freedom means the ability to create oneself such conditions as to make things be possible. If within such self-defined framework conditions decisions are taken, then people can relate to the impact things have and still feel free and responsible to work in favour of upgrading the “quality of the place’.

4.4 Impact in terms of retaining cultural diversity - knowledge of local products and quality of space

Obviously the ‘quality of a place’ has something to do with what upholds the cultural levels of reflections (M. Foucault), in order to overcome structural contradictions. Behind such a sentence there are hidden many philosophical implications and interpretations of the world, or more precisely of set of institutions organised in such a way to produce individually and collectively such an outcome, as it may define the existence of things. Departing therefore from an analysis by Michael Foucault, CIED has added the wish to come to terms with local authorities. This includes opening up practical relationships with different types of associations or partners or local actors (profit making companies as well as educational institutes), in order to see what retains the ‘quality of space’ not as a hidden dimension, but as an outcome of deliverance of information and interaction over time at that place.


It was first Michael D. Higgins who pointed out that the quality of a place depends upon a conscious cultural policy to off-set all those market forces ready to drive out things which people need, but which are not counted as valuable according to the market’s own set of criteria as to what is relevant, what not. Thus he is the first one to bespeak of a needed critique for otherwise valuable things are lost. Now this tradition of critique is not a common practised art and it differs from gossiping about the others, that is to give them a label. Critique needs to retain an own and distinct spirit of freedom, in order to reflect upon what it names as being ‘wrong’ in reference to some very basic principles of democratic accountability and cultural values such as truth, honest and memory. Critique is very much about linking and relating to work done in terms of and in reference to life and life being expressed through culture as a feeling or sentiment which people have in reflection of their own lives. This is not destiny which is sought, but conscious policy as a way of coming to terms with reality.

Now this effort to offset the negative impacts of the market has led within CIED to an intense search for critique of market forces.

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