Richard Woods, Holiday Home, commissioned by Creative Folkestone for Folkestone Triennial 2017. Image by Matt Rowe.

Can you actually design a creative district?

Traditionally, creative communities have formed organically — but development companies believe that infrastructure and a ‘build it and they will come’ approach can be just as vital as following the hip crowd

Gentrification usually follows a familiar trajectory: artists move into a cheap, run-down area, likely with lots of space (warehouses, disused buildings and so on). Artists, as everyone knows, are very hip; ergo, they make that area cool, even if it’s still quite sketchy and/or out-of-the-way. Then the money comes in, heralded by a flurry of modish facial hair, ‘small-batch’ produce and nice typefaces. Developers catch on, prices (and apartment buildings) soar.

At this point the artists often move out and scuttle off to cheaper ground, but nonetheless, that area’s creative reputation — bolstered by an influx of creativity-led brands and businesses — often sticks. The development of Shoreditch in London over the past 30-odd years is perhaps the archetypal example of this journey.

The way these areas form is both gradual and then sudden, but to an extent it’s typically organic. So is it really possible to form a ‘creative area’ from scratch? Is it as simple as ‘build it and they’ll come’, and how far do arty types have to dictate the path from DIY and decrepit to slick ‘self-facilitating media node’? 

SENIOR DESIGNER

MANCHESTER