Can Indian Cities become Creative Again? How do we set about designing these cities?
Richard Florida in his book “The Flight of the Creative Class” examines and defines the shift of activities to urban centres around the world that provide supports and sustenance for the creative community and as these centres grow they tend to attract more such people. At the end of the Industrial Revolution the availability of material resources and expertise by way of knowledge held sway over the production of wealth in the cities and centres of high production. However now it is sharply veering towards services and these are based on knowledge and expertise and those cities that are able to attract the young performers is able to grow rapidly and far outstrip the growth of the former industrial giants. This centres of power and productivity is moving towards yet another shift which is being driven by the growth of the creative industries and it is only those cities that are able to attract the creative professionals who work in these industries are able to show signs of very high growth and the creation of wealth in these centres. Richard Florida is a professor of management at the Rotmans School of Management, Toronto that is also well known for using design and innovation as a driver for management education and is now rated among the top 10 management schools in the world by leading international business magazines. The school is headed by the visionary Dean, Roger Martin who shifted the focus to design and innovation in 1998 and these shifts are well documented in the Rotmans magazine available as pdf files and is published thrice a year.
These cities are characterized by several features that are attractive for the young creative professional and these include both work related facilities as well as those that support community of creative professionals as well as provide sustenance fro a host of creative activities across a large number of interest areas. The infrastructure for these activities are an essential part of what these cities have to offer and along with these the attractive elements would include high quality accommodation, travel and transport facilities and centres of activities that offer a wide range of creative interests. It is in order to explore and articulate the renewal of our cities by the imaginative use of design that we have included these topics as part of the Design Concepts and Concerns course at NID. This week we have assigned four broad areas for our fifth batch of Post Graduate students at Paldi. This batch includes students from the Film & Video discipline, Animation Film Design, Ceramic Design, Toy Design and the Lifestyle and Accessory Design disciplines.
The task assigned to them asks the students to examine through brainstorming, categorization and modeling the issues relating to the empowerment of the city populations to make them both interested and capable of contributing directly to the four chosen areas of city life with the intention that we need not wait for governments to act while the city population could take up some of these planning tasks on their own initiative and use the government systems as a key support mechanism. The specific areas assigned to the four groups are as follows: Design opportunities and empowerment of local populations to initiate the design and creation of new infrastructure, services, facilities and activities in the four broad areas listed below:
1. Healthy Sports
2. Art & Infrastructure
3. Public Education
4. Festivals and Culture
We do see that with the application of a little bit of imagination and the creation of new norms and laws we could help transform of cities into robust centres of creativity and then we should be able to expect a very high growth in these cities that are in line with Richard Florida’s assessment. All, the students of the five batches mentioned above have been asked to explore one of these four groups and to jointly present their findings to the class on Monday the 22 October 2007. Each group would need to explore their own past experiences and in the process of brainstorming try and capture all the nuances of the identified areas of concern and try to plumb all that they already know about the subject and its context through random check-listing followed by categorization. The creation of categories is an important and non-mechanical task, which may generate a great deal of debate and discussion. Through this process we hope to build a collective vision of what opportunities and challenges exist within this chosen space, which the group can build a consensus on as part of this assignment. This journey will also show us the contours of what is as yet unknown to the group, which would be partly revealed, by the class discussion and critique from the teachers of this course during the class presentations.
The categorization of the key words discovered in the brainstorming session would also reveal an agreed structure for the design opportunity space which can be refined and articulated with the use of image and typography conventions which show the hierarchy of the terms as well as the parts of the system as the group understands it at this stage. The discovered structure is then mapped onto a selected metaphor, which is identified, by creative explorations and discussions within the group. Once an agreed structure is arrived at the group would build a final model using the created metaphor in the form of a large presentation poster which would be a rich picture of image and words drawn from the brainstorming sessions and the metaphor should help convey the whole as well as reveal the essential details within the relevant parts of the design opportunity space. This rich representation should be memorable and easy to decipher. Students can indicate the areas in which they have doubts as well as low levels of information since these would be areas that can be investigated in the next stages of the assignment, which would be undertaken after the class presentation.