Spaces of Transformation – successful places

The Oberhafen area

by Ares Kalandides

Having spent three days in Hamburg for a symposium, I will dedicate several posts in the following days to issues that inspired me there. The symposium was part of a reflexion process about how to develop the area of Oberhafen, which is part of the much larger Hafencity area. In a few words, this is an area of the Hamburg harbour formerly used by the train company, now housing a few commercial uses in the remains of a former train station. For the time being there is no plan for its long-term development, but one feasible possibility seems to be to turn it into an important location for creative businesses.

I was asked to participate on the first day in a panel discussion under the title: “Urban space as creative potential: What are the conditions for success?” (you can download the complete programme in German here). The following is an attempt to repeat here what I said at the symposium. As it was rather long, I will do so in two parts, one today and one tomorrow:

“Before I start talking about success factors for creative spaces, I need to start by limiting this endless field through three conditions:

Condition number 1: What do we mean when we say success and whose success are we talking about? Economic real estate success is not the same as raising the life conditions for the local community and not the same as international fame for the local artists. So when I talk about success here, what I will mean is economic stability for creative actors (as opposed to precariousness), creative productivity and quality of life (including difficult ideas such as happiness).

Condition number 2: Every city functions partly according to its own rules. Success factors in Athens will be different to those in Berlin, and Bogotá will not be Hamburg. So the only thing I can do is try to structure what I know and maybe suggest a method of what we should look at in this particular case.

Condition number 3: It is fine to look at local conditions for success, but we should not forget that places (and cities are places) exist in relationship to other places. How else could we understand the wealth of Hamburg’s merchants if we do not see the interconnections that the commercial fleet creates between Hamburg and the rest of the world? There is a need then to look beyond the borders of the place if we want to talk about success factors.

Now, keeping these three conditions in mind I would like to suggest to look at place as a set of resources and then examine how relevant these are to the creative economy. Purely for analytical reasons, I will classify these resources as material, relational, institutional and symbolic. After I explain what I mean by these categories, I will pick out one or two in each that I think are important in our case.  By examining these in the particular context we may find some answers to our questions.

(Part 2 is here)

About Ares

Ares Kalandides holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Studies from the National Technical University of Athens. He is the founder and CEO of Inpolis, an international consultancy based in Berlin, Germany and has implement several projects around the world. Ares teaches Urban Economics at the Technical University in Berlin and Metropolitan Studies at NYU Berlin.
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