por
António Conceição Júnior


THE CREATIVE CITY • A NUM LOOK UPON IT

At the dawn of the 21st. Century, those who hold power are, in a general way, in a crossroad, confronted with the crucial decision the history demands from them, and which consists of a seductive challenge:
The continuation of the use of solutions based on exhausted policies in a climate of decline or the reinvention of the city as a vibrant source of creativity that will also lead to an improvement of quality of life.
What appears to be factual is that it is not possible anymore to face the challenges of a new century with models rooted in out of date orders when somewhere in the world out there economies based on new concepts are galloping.
The Creative City is not only just a new social contract mas also a method of strategic planning, examining the way how people can think, plan and act creatively in a city. In short, it is the election of the full dialogue mode with the aim of conducting all to a better understanding of how humanization and revitalization can take place, making cities more productive and efficient, recovering the talent and the imagination of citizens.
What in essence distinguishes the concept of the Creative City is the election of culture as the fundamental element for something that is vital:
the clarified vision that culture, in its globalizing understanding, necessarily carries.
Almost al of us, no matter how well structured the cities in which we live in, legitimately hope for more.
We do not live isolated, but in a global community where our closest neighbour can be someone living in Alaska. For this reason it becomes evident that one has to find in well succeeded experiences sources of inspiration, but not models.
Let us accept that there are innovative ways for the creation of jobs, for the usage of technologies, for the release of knowledge in all ages of man.
All the stage for this adventure is the City, it’s total architecture that inspires and convokes, that surrounds the citizen and which should stimulate him to interact in a constructive way.

The Century of Cities
After the closure of the fastest century in the history of man, the entrance of the 21st. century becomes not just a reflexive thought of the recent past, but leads, in the way I view it, to the conclusion coming from the importance of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism: this will be the century of the cities.
For the first time it is possible to conclude that the search for better life conditions at world level lead to the fact the half the population of the world live in cities.

In Europe the statistics point to 75% while the under developing countries will soon reach 50%, when, just two decades ago, the migration tax was at 29%.
But the option for the cities comes more from necessity than from will. A study done in the United Kingdom in 1997 indicated that 84% of its inhabitants would wish to be able to live in small villages compared to the 4% that actually populate these villages.
This leads to the ethic imperative of turning the cities in places of quality of life, recreating the values that people know that exist in small agglomerates:
A sense of belonging, an exact perception of one’s place in the social structure, guarantees of continuity, of security and predictability, articulated with the possibility to enjoy urban facilities such as commerce, interaction, leisure and, above all, creativity.

Some Occurring Changes
The notion of creative city does not come by chance. The changes that occur in the world are not predictable nor posses the regular evolutive order to which we became accustomed to.
The centers of production moved to places of much reduced costs, while technological centers are changing at an unprecedented speed, bringing with them radical economical and social changes.

In front of our eyes some apparently scary transformations are taking place, but that must be taken as challenges.
- The concept of creation of wealth is much less interested in the manipulation of material goods or even services. The transformation of data into information and its consequent manipulation and added value are in the direct proportion with the competitive factors which moved away from coal and gold into a new era of creative and imagination power.
- On the other hand, the concept of governance, that before was concerned with the role of hierarchies is transforming itself into more horizontal structures, with more shared responsibilities between government and institutions of society, structures arising from joint-ventures or mixed capital, networks or even virtual organizations. That is to say that the concept of power cannot be anymore something that is exercised in the traditional way but rather in a dialoguing relationship based in the simple fact that with what each one knows, no encyclopedia can be completed, neither can it be without what each of the team knows. It is once more the convocation of the social contract as inevitability.
- The concept of vital cycles is also in transformation. Societies are distancing themselves for the old system of education-work-retirement towards an era of resource maximization based in a continuous learning and the usage of all ages. That is to say, neither the young nor the women or the elderly are expendables. On the contrary, the creative city implies the utilization and insertion of all, as creative elements integrated in the network of efficiency that can be seen as obvious.
- The concept of time is changing with instant communications in real time through different time zones, bringing with its emergence changes in the pattern of work, of commerce and of free time.
- Directly connected to the above change, the concept of place also brought a redefinition of sedentarism. Fixation and apparent immobility transformed itself in a situation of hyper-mobility where already a lot of people move between multiple places, real and virtual.
- In front of this redefinition of concepts of time and space as a physical or virtual place, it is necessary to rethink the idea of communication, since through virtual place the convergence of the written word, image and sound, announcing new ways of interactive development.
- These changes challenge even the concept of thought. It is necessary to think as a network, think integrated.
Taking in consideration these sampling of changes that have been taking place, the represent an indicator of the necessity of accept a new understanding of the ordainment of reality and the conceptualization of the world. New times require new means.

CULTURE AS SUPPORT TO THE CREATIVE ACTION
It is important to reconvert our conceptual perception of city, which cannot be the post-industrial revolution machine but rather a system, or even an organism that Confucius described as a weave of affection and mutual care.
Cultural conscience it is one fundamental added value and the driving force for the transformation of the urban space into a more imaginative city.
This approach of the Creative City is based in the idea of culture while a set of values in permanent evolution, in ways of life and forms of creative expression, becoming the field within which creativity emerges and manifests itself propitiating the dynamic for development.
In this context, natural resources are the raw material and the added value for the ignition of renovation, while the process of creativity will be the group of means through which the identified cultural resources are identified, evaluated and invested of the necessary means, while one will say that the cultural planning will be the process of identifying projects, build plans and manage the strategic implementations based on said identification of resources.
However, it is important to clarify that cultural planning is not the planning of culture, since in the recent past it had a profile that could be resumed in:
• Racial, ethnic or nationalising
• Stable, unchangeable and of fixed root
• Authoritarian, privileged and authentic
• Superior or inferior
• Primitive or refined, factual and unarguable

Today there is the idea more and more consolidated, with special incidence in multi-racial societies, that this cultural monolithism is not only outdated but condemned to extinction.
A new definition, or perhaps it should be called a creative indefinition, is born for the culture of the 21st. century:

• A Complex idea, Compromised and Contested
• Miscigenated, Unequal and Ambiguous
• Contextual and Historical
• Conjunctural, Dissonant and Fragmented
• Invented, Built and Created
• Heterogeneous and Dialoguing

It is therefore the emergence of fiction, of the stage where humanity is building its history made of unexpected synergies. It is being said that culture is in the open or, why not, that culture is itself that stage for fiction where we also become the performers. It is not possible anymore to think isolated in cultural terms.

I think it is worthy to exemplify the cultural approach under the global context of the city:
For example, in terms of health care, one can ask oneself if local health practices could be fostered having in view a more efficient sanitary prevention, while in the social area enquiries should be made about traditions in mutual care that could be adapted to support structures for toxic-dependants or for abandoned old people.
In terms of creation of employments, a visitation to old forms of craftsmanship and its techniques could allow an evaluation of how these traditional expressions could be transported to necessities of the present, becoming added value products.
It is through the placement of the cultural resources at the center of priorities that can synergetic and interactive relationships between these resources and any other type of politic, be it of housing, health, educational, social, touristic, urban planning and even cultural policy itself.

THE CASE OF MACAU
The Past
After having approached some concepts about the Creative City, it is worthy to briefly touch on the history of Macau.
The concept of creativity applied to Macau is based ab initio in the way how, at the margin of the Middle Kingdom, a city-state was created which consolidated itself around a collective government that transformed the early city in the first democratic republic of the Far-East, a situation that, under the historic light of this region, was absolutely unheard of, therefore, creative.

Therefore, if the political outlines constitute a pragmatic and creative transposition e usage of the Greek Latin concept of City-State – a result of a need that enhanced ingenuity – to a geography where Confucianism and Buddhism are omni-present, therefore fostering the emergence of another facet of creativity: intermediation.
Macau was, for a long time the first and most important European outpost in the Far-East. The vehicle that translated the interests of two countries that did not have diplomatic relationships: China and Japan.
Creativity found a pacific way to mediate or, better saying, intermediate between the sale of Chinese silk and its offer to Japan’s Nagasaki port, and the exchange for silver bullion that would transform the small city of Macau in the richest Outpost in the world.













 

The Future of the Past or Creative Intermediation.
The unique context of Macau, ancient characteristic that today still defines the city as the exception and not the rule, roots itself in its status of pragmatic convenience that allowed the conjugation of two worlds.

The new reality of Macau is a peaceful process of emancipation achieved with substantive maturity, in which memories continue to coexist with the construction of the future.
Of this inevitable verification, it is important to extrapolate a concept that I have been supporting for more than two decades, bearing in mind that part of Macau’s population is in transit:
The consolidation of a referential matrix that can agglutinate the different communities, in a process of full opening to the Other, both in what it is similar as well as in what is distinguishable.
It is in the weave of affections that Citizenship – while an identitary reference as well – can be consolidated in its plenitude, allowing then the full usage of the cultural approach in the Creative City.
Citizenship topic is very dear to me by what it implicitly carries of compromise, and because Macau, is an integral part of the “Second System” so wisely drafted and implemented by Deng Xiao Ping, as an act of creative policies destined, as it is known, to generate the progressive transformation of the inner country through the capillarity effect resulting of the creation of special economic and administrative regions, all located by the coastline, as fundamental instruments of evolution.

The urban figurine of Macau change drastically since its creation. However, the essence of the City-State remained unchanged, independently of its political status quo.
In 1978 I had the opportunity to write that Macau possessed the ideal dimension to be a par excellence laboratory, a city of experimentation, a statement that carried implicitly the understanding that, for experimentation to exist, it would be necessary to have exchange.
Today, more than two decades later, I feel and foresee how important is the return to this topic, in a moment when the city is governed by its own people, and where its plenitude has to be translated in the equalitarian integration of all communities in presence. The more important this is to exist since there has been the grandeur not to wipe out history or deny it, this evidences what is inevitably happening in the entire world:
the ever more proliferation of multi-ethnic cities to which the Portuguese, Chinese and Macanese diasporas, each in its possible proportions, have given a significant contribution.
However, I would be quite unfair if I did not recognized the creative vitality and pragmatism of the population of this very unique city.
For those who know Macau, it will be easy to verify that areas of commerce are already consolidated by specimen, as in the case of antiques in the Rua de Santo António next to the St. Paul’s ruins, or the intense enjoyment of the population of all leisure areas, squares and gardens.

Much of the heritage has been recovered, highlighting the usage of the Rua das Felicidades, while there could have been an occupation more in accordance to its own past history as an exclusive place for food and leisure.
 


Rua das Felicidades (Happiness Street)

New leisure places were initiated by imaginative people and to these places, others of similar nature joined, by the river. It is important to recognize the role of the Macau Municipality in the hosting of the Jazz Club, while the Islands Municipality has encouraged leisure places as well as ensuring Coloane Island as an ecological reserve and leisure destination par excellence.


 

 

 

 





Pavillion and bridge of Lou Lim Ieok Garden

The Lou Lim Iok garden, a unique sample of a Chinese traditional garden is the stage for amateurs of Chinese Opera that daily gather to sing under the shades of its abundant vegetation.

By this very brief sampling, one can see that Macau does not only exist in its diverse leisure and cultural dimensions whose diversity must be fostered, but the synergies are instinctively perceived by the people, which ensures a more the promising terrain.

The benefits of Macau’s dimension
Today, the physical smallness of a city is not a barrier to its development. Very much in the contrary, it potentiate the rapid creation of an organizational network or, if you will, of a system.
Factually we should see the following:
- 150 Enterprises respond to 50 percent of the Market of all Companies quoted globally in Stock Exchanges, in a value corresponding to 31 trillion USD.
- Of these 150 Companies, 49 percent were registered only in the last five years.
It is in this context that physical dimension lost its significance.

From the generalization of the Creative City to the particularization of Macau, I will say that a substantive part of the economic development of Macau should undergo a complement of what is the evolution of the “First System” in Mainland China.
Macau has all the ingredients and the optimal dimension to become the place for an Encounter of Ideas, a great Center of Creativity whose proposal, in specific terms, I presented in 1995, only to verify that in the year 2000 Bennetton launched its Factory of Ideas, therefore reinforcing my convictions.
The essence of mediation constitutes an added creative value if we consider that, integrated in the second system of China, it has also an enormous opening to the world, while on the other side it touches the first system. In other words, it has all the advantages to become the stage of pure creativity and intermediation.
Fundamentally, cities will need to interpret its destinies and the way how they will unleash the creative forces within it. The capacity of a city to recognize, liberate, feed, strengthen and maintain its creativity will be determining for its destiny in a competitive regional and global scenario.
The Centre of Creativity that I mentioned before, would be the important instrument of analysis of data, ideas and information, of specific creativity, of identification of added values, of circulation of knowledge, formulation of strategies, considering the privileged position of Macau while as a hinge between two markets: the world’s biggest market and the rest of the world.

I have asked myself often: why has not this dimension and geography been potentiated earlier for added value?
There are many that, out of context, try to emulate productions that in Macau are genuine, or at least have the legitimacy for it, as a result of cultural hybridation and the mediation vocation of that added value that is multi-culture applied to creativity.
Macau possesses numerous added values that are squandered due to the fact that it has no methodology capable of detecting creative interpreters in an organized manner and potentiate these authors and therefore potentiate the city in a creative relationship.
The future is not static. It is imperative to equip the city of other instruments that will allow virtual mediation. I am very specifically speaking of electronic commerce, and its transaction instruments such as merchant’s accounts. And in the implementation of the communication network between services, institutions and public, anticipating the model of the future.
It is not unusual to happen that the emergence of a technological instrument can ignite a revolution, especially if we consider that 40% of retail in the world is done electronically.

To end what I have to say I concerning eventual skepticism that may exist, I will quote Niccolo Machiavelli:
“Those who oppose to change by the lost of benefits that may arise from it, will generally be the first ones to enjoy the benefits coming from the consolidation of the new order that they opposed”.

The exercise of politics in its most profound sense, combined with the concept of active citizenship, horizontal and dialoguing, is the most noble cause that a man can aspire, because a Creative City is one that understands and integrates itself in the Harmony of the Universe, where each person, each citizen has an immeasurable value.

I will therefore quote Confucius:

We can understand all this, but if we do not support it with humanity, it will leak between our fingers.

We may understand and support with humanity, but if we do not govern with truth, do not expect gratitude from the people.

We may understand, support with humanity, govern with truth, but if we do not put in practice with all our effort, none of the effort will be worth.

2001

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