Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Paris and the Shifting Geography of Creativity

You may recall me previously posting a couple documentaries from Resident Advisor about the electronic music scenes in Detroit and Berlin. I thought these, especially the Berlin one, brought interesting insights about the way the creative scene (and economy) got developed in those places.

There are a couple more of these out now, and one of them, the video on Paris, is another gem. I’m embedding below. As you watch, notice a couple things related to the new geography of creativity. First, the scene in Paris has basically been dead. One would think that Paris would be a music hotbed perhaps, but it would appear to be a fairly boring city. In this way perhaps we see that the large traditionally elite culture centers have become victims of their own success. Secondly, the real action in Paris is now in the suburbs (other than a few Sunday afternoon outdoor events). The city of Paris is now simply too expensive for creativity to flourish. Thus the creative class of the city has been forced into the unfashionable suburbs to do their thing. Again, this is somewhat against the grain of the notion that you need to be in the center of the action or you can’t possibly succeed because of agglomeration effects, etc. The dynamics here are worth pondering, especially in conjunction with what we learn from Berlin.

Here’s the video. If it doesn’t display for you, click here.

Topics: Arts and Culture, Public Policy, Talent Attraction, Urban Culture
Cities: Paris

9 Responses to “Paris and the Shifting Geography of Creativity”

  1. Roland Solinski says:

    Maybe yes, maybe no… many Paris suburbs are extremely dense and are linked into one of the world’s best transit systems, so agglomeration and access aren’t issues.

    The suburban apartment block is maybe not as romantic as the Left Bank garret, but it works the same way – it’s affordable space that nonetheless offers certain advantages to creative types.

  2. Matthew Hall says:

    Yes, “suburban” Paris is denser than many American downtowns and has far more public transit and public space. Everything is relative.

  3. John Morris says:

    The Sunday outdoor party scene in NY involves places like P.S 1 in Queens and I think a lot of stuff in Bushwick.

    A huge problem is the mentality of NYC transit is so focused on peak hour Manhattan commutes. Lines like the L & G are always having track work done on the weekends. Many a Williamsburg, Greenpoint or Bushwick Gallery has gone under hoping the off hour service would improve.

    This year, business owners in Flushing begged the MTA to halt weekend track work for the Chinese New Year.

    24 hour two way flow doesn’t happen well. NYC really needs that to keep any kind of affordable creative edge. Manhattan is getting pretty lame.

  4. Ziggy says:

    The essential message here is that there is immense power in cheap space – if there’s something in close proximity to leverage.

    The places beyond Boulevard Peripherique would be mostly worthless if they were not connected to glorious innards of the Paris that lies within. Yes, long developed neighborhoods become more boring as they acquire wealthier residents. Here in Chicago, Lincoln Park is the classic example. But, they are still vital and good places to live for a variety of people.

    What’s happening in Paris beyond the Boulevard Peripherique is effective urban redevelopment. When smart, innovative types get priced out of one district, they move to the next and work their magic there. It’s happened all over Chicago’s north and near west sides over the past 30 years, and there are plenty of opportunities close in to the Loop to continue the magic if and when the economy truly recovers.

    Now, it’s been said that there are only so many gentrifying, creative class types to go around in a given geographic location. Cities like Chicago (and, especially Paris) can continue to suck in talent from the hinterlands. But, if they truly want to continue making things happen, they have to manufacture their own human capital.

    There are certain baseline characteristics that must be present to nurture human capital – food, shelter, clothing, health, safety, education, jobs. Any neighborhood without these will struggle for economic prosperity. Even beyond the Boulevard Peripherique.

  5. Jason says:

    I’ve seen stuff on the Internet that there is a height restriction in Paris. Is this true? Whenever I see a picture of the Eiffel Tower, there are high rises behind it. I’m thinking those were in the suburbs, but on Google Earth, I saw a tall building within the city of Paris. Just wondering.

  6. John Morris says:

    My former art dealer was from France. Mostly, he felt Paris was a lame museum of the past.

  7. Jason says:

    I agree. The street layout is impressive, but all the architecture seems exactly the same. That would get old.

  8. John Morris says:

    No, I mean the life of the city, the living culture and level of opportunity is way below what one might expect.

  9. Jason, there is a height limit on buildings inside the periphique. However, some towers were built prior to when this went into effect.

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