Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Cities Facilitate Flow?

Richard Florida makes an excellent point about the nature of creativity, which is that it requires the ability to enter into a state known as "flow." To be creative "You need time to get into flow, and once flow is interrupted, it cannot be magically wished back. Stress and anxiety disrupt and damage the creative process" (The Flight of the Creative Class, 203). This is an important element to take into consideration when it comes to understanding what cities are in fact best for artistic creativity, since "Density and spontaneous interaction are important elements of creative development, but not if they are tethered to too many complications" (203), such as high crime rates, congestion, etc.

So the ideal city for creativity in general and artistic production in particular would be one that is dense, safe, affordable, and full of face-to-face interactions (the Jane Jacobs ideal city, in other words). On the other hand

The sprawl that demand and in turn is demanded by traffic congestion also wrecks havoc on our competitiveness. A stretched-out, sprawled metropolis, where professors no longer live near universities, where laboratories and high-tch firms can not co-locate, where entrepreneurs and newcomers are forced to the economic periphery, will ose the advantages that come from proximity, density, spontaneity, and face-to-face interaction. (200)
Might this be the reason the big cities are known for their art and literature, and not those cities' suburbs? And what cities are the safest, densest, most affordable, and best structured to facilitate a high level of interpersonal interactions? I have little doubt that these are the world's new and/or emerging artistic/literary centers.


  1. Unfortunately, as a creative class, we are a minority of the population, and assuming that the majority should accomodate us. Or at least, that's the logical conclusion of your posting.

    Simple Economics:
    Cities decrease opportunity costs.
    Cities increase material spatial costs accordingly.
    Suburbs decrease spatial costs at the expense of opportunity costs.
    Suburbs decrease the cost of child rearing.
    For these reasons the top and bottom occupy cities, and the middle suburbs.
    Sprawl increases infrastructure costs, increase opportunity costs. (Los Angeles - for anything other than media production.)

    Was it Jefferson who said: "When we live in cities like they do in Europe, we will become as decadent as they are."?

  2. The creative class constitutes over 30% of the population. It constitutes more than those of us who are artists. :-) That's a very large minority and, if you consider the fact that most such do in fact live in cities, one shouldn't be surprised to find that some cities have a creative class populations approaching and even slightly more than half of the population. And it's a growing class of people.

    Too often city planning increases material spatial costs considerably. See Jane Jacobs on the importance of old buildings. Places like NYC, that have rent control, also drive up rents considerably.

    Sprawl, for the reasons you observe, put a break on creativity. Considering the fact that the same people in the suburbs are often the creative class, that puts a break on both their creativity and the subsequent economic gains.

    Our cities need to stop doing those things that drive the middle class to the suburbs.