Certainly, every person who has ever come in contact with hospitals have felt, at least once in their life, a sense of dissatisfaction regarding the services provided by the latter. In front of an ageing and growing population, the rise in numbers of chronic disorders and disabilities, economic and political crisis, the current system governing healthcare outstandingly appears as obsolete and dysfunctional.
The Heygate Estate, a brutalist building from the 1970s in the district of Elephant & Castle, was home to more than three thousand people until it was included, in 2014, in the ambitious regeneration project of the area which leads to the building’s demolition.
The Elephant & Castle Project, designed by the organisation Lend Lease in collaboration with the Council of Southwark aims to re-brand the district into a more human-sized, sustainable and desirable area to satisfy the ‘zone 1’ requisites.
‘Elephant & Castle is a place where people just travel through; the program wants to make the area a place in which people want to stay. […] The 1960s architecture, the roundabouts and the unappealing subways are starting to be wiped away to create a new destination in which to live, work and play’ (35% Campaign, 2012 cited in Southwark Notes, 2013).
From the demolition of the Heygate Estate, an exciting hub of pop-up stores and start-ups called the Artworks had been launched in 2014.
Similarly to Shoreditch’s Boxpark, the c village, comprising of 39 brightly coloured shipping containers deriving from the former estate and arranged over three floors, includes a variety of amenities. By offering a low-cost business and retail space, the hub brings a good concentration of creative businesses and independent artists. ‘The aim is to provide not just an office but an entire ecosystem providing a destination and an experience that is flexible, collaborative and fun’ (The Artworks, 2015).
Fiona Colley, member for regeneration at Southwark Council, claimed: ‘The idea of the interim uses and creative projects in and around Elephant & Castle is to make sure that Walworth continues to thrive during substantial change, especially while the demolition and construction work takes place. Walworth is already a popular area for artists and students in the creative industries and is a hub for small businesses and independent retail. Artworks will provide temporary space for more of these types of business and support our drive to boost the local economy’ (Southwark Notes, 2013).
Apparently exciting many are the contradictions concerning not only the Artworks project but also the whole regeneration program. The ‘regeneration’ of the Heygate Estate has brought, in fact, to the demolition of 1,200 council houses and the re-building of only 71 new ones. ‘With private rental being unaffordable for so many, it’s pretty head-smackingly obvious that regeneration, in this instance, means social cleansing’ (Hancox, 2014).
HAS THE WORD ‘ART’ IN IT SO MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU (Southwark Notes, 2013).
While the council keeps on claiming the benefits that the new ‘Boxpark’ will bring to the local community, the latter doesn’t seem to perceive them.
‘Here it is still not actually clear what ‘benefits‘ they are being to the area with this unexpanded statements’ (Southwark Notes, 2013).
The land on which the Artworks has been built was, in fact, a well-used green open space.
‘Artworks now seeks to open up a public space that was taken away from us to run what is essentially a private business that then pretends to provide or will provide minimal community uses’ (Southwark Notes, 2013).
Apparently not bringing any benefit to the former community, the initiative also doesn’t seem to contribute to the local creatives. The rental costs, around £180 per week for a 320sq ft container, bills not included, results in quite expensive considering also other areas already know to be much bigger creative cluster such as Shoreditch, Brixton, etc. Moreover, interesting is how, although being close to the London College of Communication, in a classroom of roughly 50 people including graphic designers, illustrators, design managers, etc., no one knew much about the Artwork project. Apparently serving neither the former estates’ communities nor the creatives, the Elephant & Castle regeneration scheme is a perfect example of the new trend of marketing cities, or districts, as creatives only for the private and lucrative purposes of business in the disadvantage of local communities.
Hectic, precarious and digitalised, the city’s lifestyle is dramatically changing the way we experience daily environments. While cities grow faster than ever and the crowds become increasingly frenetic and voluminous, people inevitably try to find refuge in the digital world where everyone can have his seemly peaceful spot.
Especially when it comes to shopping, it has become surprisingly challenging and intimidating to enjoy buying in high street shops which, the majority of the time, are overcrowded with people inevitably obstructing the enjoyment of such activity. It is for this reason, that, consequently, more and more buyers are turning to online shopping, a relaxing and enjoyable experience easily done by their home’s sofas. The e-commerce business is, in fact, dominating the market scene representing a $262 billion industry. ‘The brick-and-mortar retail experience, whether in strip malls, malls or separate buildings, is on the decline overall, particularly in the specialty retail sector’ (Storefront, n.d.). Nonetheless, even in a digital age where everything is ephemeral, people are still experiencing a feeling of nostalgia for a human-sized, not reproducible and physical retail experience. Shops are, in fact, not only places for buying but also for mutual visibility and social engagement. What thus appears from the market’s demands is the need to reinvent the experience of shopping, not through a new chain franchise but through a unique, welcoming and innovative concept of retailing.
In this scenario, Pop-up stores, or temporary shops, arise as the perfect answer. ‘No matter what form the pop-up retail shop comes in, this trend is going to become more and more prevalent as retail stores and mall owners seek to find a way to remain relevant in an increasingly e-commerce-centric world. These changes are beneficial to consumers as well by giving them a way to see unique products in person instead of hoping that their Internet pictures do them justice’ (The Storefront, n.d.). The strength of temporary retail shops lays in the capacity of creating an eclectic and memorable experience through the investment of a small budget, short time and high level of experimentation.
From a consumer perspective, neither digital nor physical retail is enough for today’s shopper, and what pop-up shops can do is link the internet world with the real world (Stuart Anderson, TfL’s head of retail, cited in Faul, 2014).
Pop-up stores, seen as a ‘lucrative means of bringing innovative retail experiences to life’ (Faul, 2014), are not only desired by small independent firms but have been increasingly employed also by high street brands. Through this new concept of retailing, affirmed brands connect quickly and build stronger relationships with their customer, sell more, build brand awareness and loyalty and test new markets or products.
The onslaught of digital technology in our lives, as much as in business, is altering the way we communicate and interact and is increasingly underlying our necessity of collaboration. Social media are, in fact, based on the idea of community and shared place – concept of which we are witnessing the lost in the physical world. Moreover, the economy of the last decade has been increasingly based on participation, a reason why platforms such as Uber or Airbnb have successfully entered our everyday lives. Ultimately, also Pop-up stores represent the rise of the participatory economy.
Pop-up Stores are the zeitgeist of all brands in 2016 and are no stranger to collaboration (The Storefront, n.d.).
Partnering allows, in fact, brands or designers to embrace a larger audience. Quick cash flow is not the only outcome of temporary shops: they are ‘revolutionising retail in a time when consumers long for connection and are communicating brand messages purely’ (The Storefront, n.d.).
Although, collaboration in pop-up stores doesn’t necessarily need to happen only in the background. Pop-ups are interactive hubs that often put the crowds in charge of determining the evolution of the shop.
For example, The Street Store in Cape Town, South Africa, founded in January 2014, lays on the public’s participation. The pop-up is a fashion store where the target customers are for the majority homeless people and can easily be recreated everywhere. While encouraging people to donate their second-hand garments, which are hung on the sidewalks of the city, the shop’s mission is to provide free of charge clothes to anyone that can’t afford to buy them from a high street retailer.
Reaching more than a 1,000 people on its first day of operation, The Street Store changes lives. The ease and accessibility of the pop-up shop allow for the ability to be utilised in other locations besides Cape Town (The Storefront, n.d.).
Built on crowds spontaneity but portraying a particular purpose pop-ups of this form are increasingly growing in our society. The emerging phenomenon symbolises the need to reformulate not only the praxis but also the meaning of shopping and consumption. Instead of designing goods we need to invest in the creation, or co-creation, of services and experience which employ products into the realisation of a fairer economy of shared meaning.
The most important role of museums is not only communicating the past but also stating the present.
Similarly to how human beings structure reality into categories to formulate meaning, museums are built onto positive and negative comparisons which cooperate in shaping a coherent message for the visitors. ‘Museum-as-institution became a great field of comparison […]. [T]he museum’s comparison began to operate within a space neutralised by efforts to range and to classify: all objects of type A in one place, those of type B in another’ (Krauss, 1986 cited in Greenberg et alia, 1996).
When entering an exhibition space, the displayed objects thus loose singularity in virtue of a higher purpose, that is communicating to a specific audience a precise discourse and, in some occasions, display, through the past, a single version of the present. This phenomenon, as described by Malraux (1947), in the museum artworks exist only in relation to each other. While the objects of interest appear themselves to become ‘silent’ and to be trapped in the machine by getting decontextualised, the sum of them – the exhibition – strikes an aesthetic statement.
Accordingly, through their collections, cultural institutions can construct social, cultural and political representation: ‘they make statements about how the world and its peoples, histories and cultures are conceptualised’ (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000). By showing significant images portraying important actions or events, collections take also on a pedagogic and moral role. Through the persistent exhibition of specific pictures and exclusion of others, a state can control its identity and the way society and history are perceived by the citizens.
The history of the National Portrait Gallery is a perfect example of the relation between pedagogy, society and cultural institutions. At the opening of the National Portrait Gallery in 1856, when the collection was made of almost 230 (of which only 22 showing women) portraits, a precise picture of the state’s identity was given to the population: nationalism, elitism and masculinity were at the core of each artwork displayed. Its primary objective was, through the showcase of portraits of nobles and notable personalities, to ‘encourage and enable “mental exertion”, “noble actions”, and “good conduct”’ (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000).
Holding 195,000 portraits, the collection today also includes celebrities, symbol of how, through social media, the perception of ‘nobility’ has evolved throughout times. ‘Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze,’ curated by Dorothy Moss, is an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery which showcases, through various media (not only paintings but also video portraits, photographs and sculptures), the nobles of the 21st century such as Brad Pitt, Katy Perry or Britney Spears. David Ward ‘had been thinking a lot about what it means to be a celebrity at this current moment, and how important it is for all of us to be thinking critically about this constantly shifting and changing category called ‘celebrity’ in the age of social media”. “Eye Pop” is also an invitation “to think critically about the way celebrities can rise and fall […] People make mistakes. We have portraits of people in the collection who have certainly fallen in the public eye, but that’s part of history. So we don’t hide from that, we’re not celebrating that, we’re telling the story of reality. That’s why they’re there’ (Dorothy Moss, 2015 quoted in Goldstein, 2015).
by Stuart Pearson Wright, oil on board construction with coloured pencil on paper, 2005
Bringing objects together always creates assumptions on the present reality, and act as a visual statement on our society. Today, as we are witnessing the Information Age, where flows of data and knowledge are accessible at any time, and anywhere, collections displayed in gallery serve more as a mirror to our society and as an occasion to reflect rather than and a passive infusion of what being a good citizen should mean.
Hooper-Greenhill, E. (2000). Museums and the interpretation of visual culture. pp.23-48.
As stated by Atkinson and Easthope, ‘creativity and economic development have become a key feature of the theoretical and practice landscape of urban politics in the last decade’ (2007).
In an age of globalisation, where the population is losing the sense of locality, shared places and identity, the importance of including creativity into city policy arises (Landry, 2000). The growth of the creative economy has lead countries to invest in their urban planning strategies to redesign cities for the new market trend.
‘With the move towards the information and conceptual age, the focus has turned towards attracting particular types of people with specific skills and capabilities. As a result, many major metropolitan areas around the world are now more drawn to a developmental formula that combines a focus on the new economy, investment in cultural resources, and an attempt to create a vibrant sense of place’ (Atkinson and Easthope, 2007).
The creative city appears thus as a cluster for the creative class, made of artist, software designers as well as management and legal experts (Pratt, 2008). Grouped and defined by Richard Florida, the creative class has three characteristics: technology, talent and tolerance. The occupations mentioned above, from Florida’s point of view, are a part, in fact, of the new high-tech economy, are distinctive of creative talent and are represented by a tolerant and diverse lifestyle.
What’s interesting about this definition is the ‘exercise of place marketing’ that serves as an urban planning strategy. ‘Florida develops a line of argument concerning how to attract educated labour and, thereby attracting high-tech industries, and to achieve growth’ (Pratt, 2008). The problematic of such definition lays in the failure of considering the pre-existing conditions and communities of the cities. Although, the reality of the creative class is not necessarily based on a bohemian lifestyle, from which comes the need to design cities like large shopping centres or themes park. Artists today are, in fact, nothing but the ‘archetypal post-Fordist worker: never tied down for long, floating from one short-term project to the next, constantly thinking outside of the box, always on the lookout for new ideas, with no discernible split between “labour-time” and “leisure-time”; willing to carry the risk of a “creative” life on their own, rather than look to the state or a collective organisation for support. The line between “the artist” and that post-Fordist ideological hero, the entrepreneur, is so slim as to be virtually invisible’ (Bolton, 2013).
The attempt of developing new creative cities is determining a phenomenon of gentrification, which mainly arises where there is a lack of affordable housing. The paradox of the new economy is that if one hand it aspires to ‘create clean and safe spaces to encourage social and economic investments’; on the other it creates ‘a desire for gentrification and the supplanting of needy communities with high-income groups who might also facilitate the improvement of the physical fabric of the city’ (Atkinson and Easthope, 2007).
Although, art is not the determining cause of gentrification. ‘Artists colonise cheap and dilapidated property, in time those seeking a ‘boho culture’ (Brooks 2001; Lloyd 2006) move in so as to be close to the artists. Of course, the key point for cultural entrepreneurs and artists is that as the art galleries and rich loft owners move in the artists are forced out due to rising prices (Shorthouse 2004).
Experts like Florida or Landry, while offering social and urban solutions to the new market demands (the growth of the creative industries), are leaving out the problem of gentrification, defining it as an unavoidable phenomenon for the pursuit of more ‘open and tolerant cities’ (Atkinson and Easthope, 2007). The outcome is that social and economic inequality are still being included in the new planning scheme. Instead of promoting, through urban planning, only one or a few groups of society, a more inclusive kind of design, where art becomes a mean of overcoming class and minorities struggle, ‘rather than a means of erasing it’ (Bolton, 2013) is the real challenge of the creative cities. Art should alleviate inequality instead of increase it in the name of the prosperity of the few.
Atkinson, R. and Easthope, H. (2007). The Consequences of the Creative Class: The Pursuit of Creativity Strategies in Australia’s Cities. 1st ed. Australia: University of Tasmania.
Humans are by definition ‘meaning-makers’ and thus interact with environments, people and objects to interpret reality. Interpretation is ‘virtually’ an act of ‘translation’ (Sontag, 1961) based on mental schemes and categories arising from social, political and cultural contexts. When entering a museum environment, people are thus lead to interpreting the exhibits by finding their way to the narrative initially constructed by the curator.
Without the public the piece doesn’t exist. (Abramovic, 2010)
Like a reader, the visitor analyses the text – the exhibition -, which takes life only when it is read, and eventually creates the ‘aesthetic object’ (Deneau, 1980).
The infinite interpretations that result from the interaction of the two subjects – text and reader – proves as impossible the attempt of individual institutions to introject knowledge passively and asserts the relativism that lays at the core of art and the need to design education as an interactive process.
In fact, exhibitions not only exist for ‘those who have the means of approp
riating them, that is, of deciphering them’ (Bourdieu and Darbel, 1997) but is accessible by anyone owning an instinct, as art is often the outcome of an irrational process. Education is thus not necessarily the only mean through which art can be assimilated. The act of interpretation is also built on irrational processes moved by our body sensations and emotions. Scientific studies demonstrate, in fact, that emotions, being part of cognition (Descartes, 1994), play a significant role in understanding and making meaning of reality.
Inside and outside are inseparable. The world is wholly inside, and I am holly outside myself (Ponti, 1945)
Art is, in fact, much easier than what the education system teaches. Being used to an art paradigm of figurative and realistic forms correctly aligned to their contents, we find ourselves attached to the need of interpreting, or of finding a ‘truth’. Through interpretation, viewers are lead to see art as something that needs to explain and hence to create a ‘separation of content from form’ (Totaro, 2005).
Although, as stated by Donato Totaro (2005) ‘in today’spost-structural/postmodernist context, where there are no longer meta-narratives or “truths,” interpretation has exploded into its own discourse, and some would argue, art form’. Susan Sontag, in the book ‘Against Interpretation’, explains how interpretation ‘makes art manageable and comfortable’, it makes ‘something unreadable readable’ (1961). From the author perspective, it allows us to forget the ineptitude of our senses to read the world without the support of the intellect freely.
Sontag’s argument is not against interpretation per se. She is against the process of ‘using an interpretative grid over and over to “decode” disparate works of art’ (Totaro, 2005), a process that eventually deprives art of its content, or ‘non-content’ like, for example, in Abstract painting.
In other words, ‘the interpretation should not take the place of the experience of art’ (Totaro, 2005).
Transparence is the highest, most liberating value in art. Transparence means experiencing the luminous of the thing in itself, of thing being what they are. […] What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more. […] The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means (Sontag, 1961).
Deneau, D. (1980). Wolfang Iser. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. The International Fiction Review,, 7(1), pp.76-77.
Sontag, S. (1961). Against interpretation, and other essays. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
The digital era is changing the structure of our planet in extraordinary ways. ‘Technological progress has accelerated to the point that the future is happening to us far faster than we could ever have anticipated. This new world is what we call “extreme present,” time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future’ (Olbrist, 2016).
The endless flow of data, the democratisation of information and the abolition of time and space, are revolutionising every layer of our society, including the economy. The world wide web, which ‘created new physics of business’, appears thus to be as one of the leading causes of the ‘radical disruption in the economies of both the creation and distribution’ (Waldman, S, 2010).
What is the role of entrepreneurs in such era of disruption?
In the history of our times, successful entrepreneurs have always been those who, by using their creative thinking, revolutionised the current reality toward the realisation of new ways of doing business. ‘More than inventors, they were the people who seized the technological advances and used them to transform our world’ (Waldman, S, 2010).
Like designers, entrepreneurs, accumulate data about the current reality and build innovative patterns of markets. In this perspective, smart entrepreneurs are those who can understand immediate changes and create products and services to satisfy immediate but still intangible needs.
As stated by Schumpeter, ‘entrepreneurship is innovation and the actualisation of innovation’ (1942) therefore represent a critical force of the economy as it redefines, through its visions, societies.
Moreover, Schumpeter believed that innovation is also ‘the centre of economic change causing gales of “creative destruction”’ (Sledzik, n.d.). It is a ‘process of industrial mutation, which incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one’ (Schumpeter, 1942 cited in Sledzik, n.d.). Entrepreneurs thus perform the destruction of the old and participate in the creation of the new systems.
Disruption is thus the start of a creative process, the input for a redesign of the demands and offers of the contemporary market. As much as entrepreneurship is not only a job title but rather a mindset, creative disruption can also be seen as a design attitude, a ‘pro-active critical attitude geared towards questioning the outdated patterns of thinking’ (Guidi, n.d.). In this sense, design thinking is crucial to entrepreneurs as it provides strategies for identifying the circumstances for change, the stimuli to enable disruption and the means to control it. Having a precise awareness of the current times is thus fundamental to the entrepreneurial activity. As a matter of fact, Victor Papanek developed the concept of ‘Telesis’ to explain ‘how products have to reflect the true conditions of the environment, translating them into meaningful design concepts. The physical context in this sense influences and provides stimulus but is not determinant in the disruption process’ (Guidi, n.d.). Entrepreneurship is thus not only about developing new products but in setting, through commodities and services, the premises for a change by acting with confidence above what is familiar.
Caballero, R. and Hammour, M. (1994). On the timing and efficiency of creative destruction. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. pp. 805-806
Dobbs, R., Manyika, J. and Woetzel, J. (n.d.). No ordinary disruption. pp. 1-12
Galli, F. (n.d.). What if Disruption Could Increase Creativity. 1st ed. Milan: Politecnico di Milano, Faculty of Design.
Waldman, S. (2010). Creative disruption. Harlow, England: Financial Times Prentice Hall. 1-48
Śledzik K., (2013), Schumpeter’s View on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (in:) Management Trends in Theory and Practice, (ed.) Stefan Hittmar, Faculty of Management Science and Informatics, University of Zilina & Institute of Management by University of Zilina