Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Marseille and culture-based revitalization

The latest piece in the series of articles I have been doing for the "Europe in Baltimore: Transit | Creative Placemaking in Baltimore" project of the EU National Institutes of Culture Washington Chapter is posted here, "Marseille as the 2013 European Capital of Culture: Regeneration and Rebranding at the Mediterranean scale."

It was an interesting study for many reasons, one being how national and regional and local culture policies can intersect and be oppositional, how Marseille is seen as disconnected from the culture of the Provence region, how the national government, pushing the role of France in the Mediterranean basin, chose Marseille to be their host city in the European Capital of Culture program in large part to push forward those objectives, and the perennial issues of artistic endeavors as creative impulses versus economic development via "the creative industries," community engagement in the art, and poverty amelioration as an element of revitalization.

That the effort was maintained in the face of budgetary pressures brought on by the 2008 Global Recession and the number of projects that were realized was quite impressive.

Perhaps the biggest lesson for me is the reiteration of the need to consider and work on long time frames. Achieving the broader revitalization goals in the city and the aspirations concerning the city and country's role within the Mediterranean are both very much long term initiatives and it makes sense to consider being the host of the Capital of Culture and the program year more as a process and a midpoint event in the achievement of a broader agenda.

Again, having a revitalization plan, an implementation organization, funding, and a focus on achieving important catalytic projects is key.

Marseille has a number of fascinating nonprofit-nontraditional arts organizations and projects including the La Friche culture center, the organization Lieux Publics, which promotes street arts of all types, and Marseille Expos, an organization linking art galleries, spaces, and support organizations.

And in Aix-en-Provence, the "City of the Book" library and knowledge complex, seems quite interesting as well.

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