EUROPEAN capitals of culture, the largest cultural programme of the European Commission, at the beginning were mostly about year-long cultural festivals. Over the years – and after very successful efforts by cities such as Glasgow, Helsinki and Essen – it has evolved into longer-term urban regeneration and transformation of the chosen cities – through culture – and holding the designation has helped to reposition several of these cities on the European and world map. This is the vision leading the team behind Košice Interface 2013, a project of the city of Košice, which will be one of the European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) for 2013 and that is why Košice’s project is not only cultural but also very much business-oriented.
“Our project is basically framed in the broader picture of new types of economic development,” said Zora Jaurová, the director of the Košice Interface 2013 project. “Through this project we would like to foster development not only in Košice, but also in eastern Slovakia.”
Košice, the second biggest city of Slovakia, was chosen in 2008 along with Marseille in France to be a European Capital of Culture for 2013. The city’s Košice Interface 2013 project is very much focused on the concept of ‘creative cities’ which is being thoroughly discussed not only in Europe but also worldwide as a way connecting culture and economy.
“Richard Florida, who is now considered the guru of this concept of creative cities, said that the key factor of success for cities in today’s world is basically the ability to generate, attract and retain creative and talented people,” Jaurová said at a recent event organised by the American and British Chambers of Commerce in Slovakia at which she explained how business-related the Košice project is. “And then, once you are able to attract those creative people and innovative talents, it brings development and success to a city.”
Jaurová defined creative cities as those cities with very strong economic development and ones which are not only able to attract people to visit them, but also to relocate and live there because they find it to be a location where they are able to exchange ideas, talent, and innovation.
“They are very much based on something which is called a knowledge-based economy and nowadays it is more and more often called creative economy,” she said, adding that creativity is something that defines the uniqueness of a certain place and which motivates people to live there and to create and develop innovative ideas.
Creativity as the driving force
When speaking about creativity, many people in Slovakia think mostly about the arts and humanities and do not realise that creativity is a key factor in an innovation-driven economy and that is where Slovakia wants to head in its economic development efforts. In successful cities, it is very often technological and economic creativity that leads the way.
During the 20th century Slovakia increased its economic growth by massive investments in industry, explained Martin Bruncko of Neulogy company. But he said that now, after Slovakia’s labour force is becoming more expensive, factories are moving to Kazakhstan, Romania, and Ukraine, and Slovakia is moving towards the next stage of its development which is an innovation-driven economy.
“Innovation-driven economy or creative economy is basically an economy where most companies create unique value,” said Bruncko, using examples such as Nike, Google, Microsoft, Siemens, and Phillips which produce not only products but also sell lifestyles, identity and atmosphere, and position themselves as being really unique.
Jaurová sees this developmental stage as an economy based on ideas, individual creativity, networking, clustering and bringing global knowledge to the market, and that creativity is an underlying principle to it.
Essen, a German city which is a European Capital of Culture for 2010, is the first capital of culture that has integrated creative industries into its overall concept.
“Priority is given to the support of synergies instead of physical and enormous financial supports,” said Michal Hladký, Investment and Development Projects Manager of the Košice project. “Cities should be able to act primarily as the facilitator, not as the donor.”
The Košice team has been strongly inspired by these concepts in its project.
“Our philosophy is to see the city as an interface,” said Hladký. “The citizens are the users, culture is the program and the city itself is the interface which enables communication between the users and the program – culture – in the city. So we understand the interface as a toolkit made for transformation, openness, dialog and environment.”
This includes converting existing structures in the city into different functions or putting new functions into old buildings or discovering which new functions are lacking in the city and thereby redefining public space. Under this plan they have already started transforming old military barracks into a creative hub.
“So what we are trying to achieve is to build a cultural centre there,” said Jaurová. “To build incubators there for creative people and small businesses, as well as exhibition space, and our great wish is to put an art university in one of those buildings.”
Cooperation with local universities is of key importance. Košice is home to one of the best-rated universities in Slovakia, Technical University of Košice, which, according to Jaurová, is very progressive in art education as well as technical education.
“Universities are considered as the key drivers in an innovation-driven economy,” said Bruncko. “Innovation stemming from creativity has to come from somewhere, and usually universities are hubs for this.”
Bruncko said this project can also help solve a key problem in Slovakia, which is the lack of connection between universities and the business world, and it can get universities more involved in day-to-day life and in cooperation with business.
In general, Bruncko sees this project as good for local development and business. If the project does it well, the city will acquire key urban infrastructure which will make the city attractive for top talents to not only come to Košice but also to stay.
“All people in business agree that the most important factor in business success now is the ability to attract the best people, top talent,” he said, adding that if Košice is turned into an exciting city which is perceived by young people as a place where they really want to be, he would consider the project to be very successful.
A prestigious Italian daily newspaper, Corriere Della Sera, published a series of articles in which it identified 10 cities it considers as the most promising cities over the next 20 years. Košice is among them, along with only other two cities in Europe – Antwerp in Belgium and Marseille in France.
“Basically what they wrote is that Košice has a very interesting location; the newspaper used the adjective ‘glocal’ to describe a place with local specificities but one that can be interesting for the global market,” said Jaurová. “So we hope that the Italian newspaper is not mistaken and that Košice is really one of those cities of the future.”
8. Feb 2010 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková