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Cultural plurality and the creative city: how multicultural communities can help to build creative and sustainable urban habitat

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Sustainability and creativity are key words in the town planning studies of the last twenty years more and more. Scientific literature is rich and variegated but the approaches and the same definitions (Taylor, 1988) are not univocal. Some attach
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   BDC no. 9/2009 – ISNN 1121-2918 666 CULTURAL PLURALITY AND THE CREATIVE CITY: HOW MULTICULTURAL COMMUNITIES CAN HELP TO BUILD CREATIVE AND SUSTAINABLE URBAN HABITAT Massimo Clemente  National Research Council of Italy – IRAT University of Naples Federico II Department of Conservation of Architectural and Environmental Assets Via Roma, 402. I-80132 Naples. Italy Phone: +39-081-2538660. Fax: +39-081-2538649. E-mail: massimo.clemente@unina.it Abstract Sustainability and creativity are key words in the town planning studies of the last twenty years more and more. Scientific literature is rich and variegated but the approaches and the same definitions (Taylor, 1988) are not univocal. Some attach great importance to the creative class (Florida, 2002) whose ability to produce development must be geared by promoting a hospitable urban environment. Others underline the need of politics to create a creative field, a humus preparatory to every strategy founded upon creativity (Scott, 2006). Others still hold creativity to be a tool of urban marketing which does not really address the problem of social equity (Peck 2005). We ought to reflect about how much is a fashionable trend and how much is substance. A reference comes from history, even though contexts and dynamics are specific to the period. After all there has been always a reasonable use of resources, except in the contemporary age, when the correct  balance between the exploitation of resources and their availability is lost for future generations. As regards creativity, anyway, political leaders have always sought out creative people, trying to exploit their abilities and to make sure that they do not upset the status quo. Today’s cities of the world have distinctive features which have never existed before: 1) most of the world’s population live in the city ; 2) the urban population is increasingly more multiethnic and multicultural  . Differences between people and the pluralism of cultures that cohabit in contemporary cities are an important resource for implementing the principles of sustainability in town planning and architecture. Particularly, cultural plurality promotes a favourable environment for creativity and, therefore, for environmental, social and economic development. Key words:  environment, society, economics, multicultural city, creative process   BDC no. 9/2009 – ISNN 1121-2918 667 1. Sustainability and creativity  Sustainability and creativity are key words more and more present in theory and practice of town planning and architecture, in regional planning, in urban and architectural design. More than twenty years passed since the Bruntland Report was drawn up and the concept of sustainability is well-established and is shared by stake-holders of regional and urban transformations, but approaches and strategies to build sustainable development are quite different. After the Conference of Rio de Janeiro on environment and sustainable development we had the Agenda 21 an then the national and local ones. The first phase of implementing the Rio  principles favoured environmental factors. The new philosophy of sustainability was directed towards urban environment by the Habitat II Conference that took place in Istanbul in (1996) on the themes of adequate shelter for everybody and sustainable development of human settlements. At the present day, in Europe, sustainable development is the target of national and local laws for cities and regions. It’s the objective of economic programming and regional planning in all official documents. Sustainability is the target of laws, town planning, urban and architectural design. Government and technicians are careless about sustainability in the United States, in Russia and Japan. In developing Countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, sustainability is subordinate to endemic poverty of most of population that is victim of famines and wars. Globalization and interdependence of world phenomena call for unitary political will at the  planet scale but United Nations are subordinated to economic lobbies. Even the G8 are very influenced by the multinational companies. This trend is increasing due to the energetic crisis, the economic recession and the stagnation. Many governments proclaim the sustainable development but they really don’t practice it. The slogan “thinking global acting local” is shared at theoretical level but it is not easy to apply it in the practice. Frequently we pay attention to environmental factors more than social equity and economics. Strong supranational political will must support global strategies that can find application only by conscious participation of local communities. Furthermore, sustainability articulates in three dimensions that are the environmental, the social and the economic ones. We can  pursue the aim of sustainable development just if we face jointly the different aspects that concern with environment, equity of social impacts, economic feasibility.   BDC no. 9/2009 – ISNN 1121-2918 668 Urban sustainability is a specific theme that ranges from regional planning to architectural design. We need ideas and practices target oriented and we must relate with strategies for environmental, social and economic aspects. 2. Trend about creativity  History offers the right references and the past teaches that events repeat although contexts could be different and specific of each age. After all, humankind utilized natural resources in a reasonable way in the past, except in the contemporary age when we have lost the balance  between utilization of available resources and the disposability for next generations. In the 80s psychology scholars studied creativity and they pointed out several explanations and interpretations. Scientific literature is rich and variegated but the approaches and the same definitions are not univocal (Taylor, 1988). Undoubtedly creativity is a determinant factor for innovation that is generated by the ability of thinking in a different way from most of people. Creativity is also the capacity of transform an innovative idea into a project of innovation. This innovation coming from creativity can generate and enhance social and economic developing processes, both at regional and urban scale. The concept of creative city isn’t very old (Florida, 2002) but it spread quickly and it aroused a lot of interest. We have many different points of view about what is a creative city and about which are best strategies to promote urban competitiveness through creativity (Niessen, 2007). Florida individuates the creative class as the subject able to produce innovation and development starting from the different way of thinking. The creative class can support urban development. Cities must be adequate and hospital towards creative people to catch this opportunity. Some authors emphasize that we need policies aimed at the creation of a creative field, a propaedeutic humus to each strategy based on creativity (Scott, 2006). Some people doesn’t agree with Florida’s approach to the creative class. This people thinks that creativity is a tool of urban marketing that doesn’t care for social equity. (Peck, 2005) As it usually occurs, many supporters of Florida theories went too far in overvaluing creative cities potentialities. So I think it’s important to reflect about limits and real opportunities. We ought to reflect about how much is a fashionable trend and how much is substance in the discussion about creative cities. The theme is ready to be studied in a detached way and we must see to our past.   BDC no. 9/2009 – ISNN 1121-2918 669 3. Lesson from history  The city is the most important expression of human capacity to know, to remember, to elaborate and to represent. Men and women narrate their histories, cultures and arts in the cities by the stones, the architectures, by public and private spaces. “But what is ‘creativity’ if not the culture of the memory and its capability to metabolize the past reading it again, thinking and seeing today all that man realized risking himself while he was thinking new things?” (Pagliara, 2008 p. 12). The concept of sustainability is young but we can see that the cities of the past were more sustainable than contemporary ones. First of all, ecological footprint of human settlements was smaller than today both in quantity and quality. Furthermore, the utilization of resources was more logic and functional. Most of all, the balance between the availability of raw materials and energetic resources on the one hand and their utilization on the other hand was  positive. Modern and contemporary societies made great progress, above all, in technological and medical fields. The life is longer and better, even for a little part of humankind in rich and developed Countries. But we weren’t able to enhance our relationship with natural environment. Rather our growth happened taking from environment and other living being in the word. In the last two centuries, technological progress lived an hyperbolical acceleration. The  positive effects were several but we lost our balanced relation with environment that we have had sin the srcin of humankind. We don’t want to propose Ruskin romantic approach and we don’t want to renounce to technological progress. But we ought to reconstruct a balanced relation with our habitat remembering the lost harmony. The respect towards the nature and our limits consciousness can help to reach this environmental sustainability. The city of the future can take the capacity to dialogue with nature from the cities of the past. The architect town planner must search the lost equilibrium between urban environment and natural environment and the lesson of history can help us. Historic city represents and transmits the memory of urban community that is an important reference for the social sustainability today. Even in the past societies social rights were neglected where we are more conscious about it. Urban societies had right balance between production and consumption. On the contrary urban economies are in endemic debt nowadays.
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