The UNESCO Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network-The three UNESCO Cities of Design: Buenos Aires, Berlin, Montreal

Cities require special qualifications to become members of the "The UNESCO Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network". Factors such as talent, tolerance, diversity and technology also play an important role for a city's success as a Design city. Buenos Aires, Berlin and Montreal will be pointed out as examples.


More than 40% of the active professional population in developed countries works in the creative sector, which includes "sciences, technology, culture, arts and entertainment" [1]. According to M. Labouté, who is a member of the executive committee responsible for culture and heritage, the downtown area, and design, a city's creativity directly influences the quality of life, the proudness of citizens, the city's tourism, and also investments [2].

Factors such as talent, tolerance, diversity and technology also play an important role

To move these advantages from a national point of view to an international level, the "United Nations" created a special program, the "UNESCO Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network". Cities require special qualifications to become members.

Factors such as talent, tolerance, diversity and technology also play an important role for a city's success as a Design city. Buenos Aires, Berlin and Montreal will be pointed out as examples.


Founded in 1945, UNESCO, the "United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization" is a "specialized agency" of the "United Nations". Its goal is the promotion of "education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, communication and information" on an international level [3].
The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity
"The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity" is part of UNESCO. Its mission is to "access national and international markets" by creating partnerships between the public and the private sector. Furthermore, it takes care of copyright issues to ensure that artists and creative people get validated for what they do. Cultural industries, which include printing, publishing and multimedia, audiovisual, phonographic and cinematographic productions as well as crafts and design, are promoted and supported as well [4,5].
The Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network
"The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity" developed the "Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network". It is a connection between cities which have heavy input in different fields of creation. This connection makes it possible for creative cities to share "experiences, know-how, business skills and technology." At the same time it helps other cities in the network to develop their own "creative community" [4]. This is especially important for developing countries, where creative industries are not very developed. The network help to include them in the international market [6]. The goal is to connect, on an international level, the "creative, social and economic potential of cultural industries". Important factors, which the network has to promote, are technology, business skills, networking between enterprises and industries, market research, and distribution channels" [7]. Arian Hassani, who is the person responsible for the application process of UNESCO's Cities of Design Network, explains that "the 'Creative Cities Network' was launched operationally in the framework of the Global Alliance for cultural diversity in January 2005, and it was approved by UNESCO’s 170th Executive board in October 2004" [8].
UNESCO Creative Cities
The first partner of the "The Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network" was Edinburgh, UK, as a city of Literature [9]. There are Cities of Folk Art, such as Aswan in Egypt and Santa Fe in New Mexico, USA. There are Cities of Music, in Bologna, Italy and Seville, Spain. Popayan, in Colombia, is a City of Gastronomy [10]. Hassani points out that most applications come from music, design and folk art categories, whereas the number of literature and media arts applications is slightly less. Due to the fact that the program has only been around for less than two years, she is unable to provide an accurate average for the number of cities which apply per year. Furthermore, she explains that the number of cities to become part of the "Creative Cities Network" is not limited. However, due to the hard selection process, only a few cities will get selected per year.

UNESCO Cities of Design

Cities which are assigned to the category of Design are Buenos Aires in Argentina, Berlin in Germany and Montreal in Canada. All three cities have in common a traditional design background and a strong contemporary art scene. They are significant for the regional design scene as they are also included in the international market [10]. Referring to the network of these cities of design, Hassani believes that a grant program for the "Creative Cities Network" may result in a meeting of the "Creative Cities Network" in St. Etienne at the beginning of December 2006. There, project and collaborative initiatives will be discussed. The cities in the category of design need special characteristics. For example, they have to have an established design industry and modern architecture. They should also provide the unique type of urban design that is particular to urban spaces such as subway stations.

Important characteristics are also pertinent schools of design, and well-known local and national creators and designers, who should be given the possibility to use local materials for their creation process. These cities should organize fairs, events, and exhibitions related to design. Accordingly there should be a market for design collectors. The structures of the cities need to be based on a design related plan. In addition, creative industries should be situated in the field of design [7].

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the first "City of Design" of the "Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network". It was assigned to it on 24 August 2005 [11]. Buenos Aires, which is the third largest city in Latin America, has a large cosmopolitan population. Spanish, Italians, Lebanese, Armenians, Poles, and Russians immigrated throughout the twentieth century [12]. The cultural sector is well developed and provides four percent of local jobs. Public and private investments give the possibility to invest in modern architecture, new urban design, and public spaces. Three groups of designers, "including the 1950s group", the "contemporary group" and the "youngsters" represent a strong design background [13]. Also, there is a high number of design related events, for instance, the Fashion Month or the Design Month [12]. Concluding, Buenos Aires, which is able to provide a strong relation to design in many pertinent fields, matched UNESCO's request of characteristics to be assigned "UNESCO City of Design".


On November 2, 2005, Berlin was elected to be a "UNESCO City of Design" [14]. Due to the fact that the city was divided after the Second World War, Berlin has an interesting historical background. The reunification in 1989 provided the possibility to set off a new united cultural tradition. The government is investing in the design economy as well as in arts. Design can be noticed in architecture and city spaces. For instance, some metro stations in one of Europe's oldest metro systems are now being decorated and specially designed. This now interest of the government is not a new phenomenon. In Germany, the arts have historically always been a big part of the culture. Before the second world war, beginning with the emergence of Berlin as a location for intellectual and cultural under the rule of "Friedrich der Grosse" in the 18th century. From that period until the 2nd world war the city continued this tradition and generated architects, designers and photographers of national and international reputation [15]. With 1500 daily events, Berlin is rich in cultural events. There is, for instance, the "Designmai", "update", and the "Berlin Photography Festival" [16]. The characteristics the city of Berlin could provide in its candidature conforms to UNESCO`s expectations to be elected for the "Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network" [15].


On May 17, 2006, Montreal was officially declared a "UNESCO City of Design" by its mayor, G. Tremblay [17]. Montreal is a cosmopolitan city with a population composed of immigrants of very different origins. Design is valorized through public and private investments in this field. Montreal's designers work in the fields of interior design, graphic design, fashion and architecture. Design related events are, for example, the "Mois du Design" or the "International Fair of Interior Design (SIDIM)". Furthermore, Montreal has four Universities with educational programs in design, architecture and urban planning [2].


Application Process for the "Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network"

According to Hassani, a city of Design needs to "successfully complete the candidature process". After the candidature has been evaluated, it will be decided if the city qualifies to be appointed a Creative City. Cities can apply by submitting a request for membership to "The Global Alliance for Cultural diversity" together with an application. Criteria for selection are: "political and financial support, tradition in the selected domain, contemporary creation and environment, existing industries, infrastructure, international profile and outlook, educational and training activities, public focus, and knowledge-sharing" [18]. The application is supposed to show the city in its context, which means the "city's geography, population, economy, cultural industries, social, and political conditions" [18]. Details need to be mentioned about the cultural life. Also, it is important to focus on the chosen category. Cultural assets such as museums, festivals, and associations need to be added as well. They are also asked to provide the programs and goals of the coming years. [18]

Advantages of a city's creative sector

The goal of the program is to develop a city's economy, society, and cultural diversity [9]. As a result, there should be a better quality of life, a sense of community and a shared identity. Also, "cultural tourism" can be developed. According to an enquiry of the worldwide tourist organization of the United Nations, Canada is considered to be a "boring country" [19]. This shows the importance of promoting this "cultural tourism", considering the fact that cultural and heritage activities are among the top five reasons for traveling [9]. Furthermore, industries can be attracted and benefit the city with their investments in the creative sector [2]. This sector is a powerful source of social and economic development for a city. New jobs can be created and a variety of goods and services can be provided. Consequently, this will stimulate the local and also the international market [9]. Nevertheless, city architects and the general public are often not aware of the positive input creativity has to the community [9].

Factors and tendencies that are linked to successful (Design) Cities

The internationally known American researcher Richard Holiday points out that "diversity, tolerance, talent, and technology" are key factors for successful (Design) Cities [20].


In one of his research projects, where 50 cities in the USA were involved, Holiday compared four equally weighted variables related to "social and cultural diversity" and analyzed in which ways they were essential in developing a city's success. According to his analysis, the factors are a "large gay population", a "high concentration of foreign-born residents", a "high concentration of bohemians" and an "overall diversity" [20].

First of all he found out that high-ranking cities had a large number of gay people [20]. Generally, homosexuals are considered to be people who follow up on the latest trends. There is a slightly higher concentration of scientists and engineers among the gay population compared to the rest of the population [20]. Another finding is that cities with high talent and technology have a great number of foreign-born residents. Cultural diversity is not only good in itself, but it is also a precondition for social and economic development [6]. Holiday states that economists have found out how important the fact of diversity is for economic growth [20].

Furthermore, bohemians are important for the development of a city. Florida states that "traditional measures of amenities" such as restaurants, museums, etc. are not important. Instead, the number of "writers, designers, musicians, actors and directors, painters and sculptors, photographers and dancers" as well as "outdoor cafes, hip restaurants, art galleries, and the music scene" is significant [20]. Finally the author looks at the "overall diversity" of a city. This factor is defined by a city's social, cultural, and ethnic diversity. Talented and high-tech cities ranked high when this factor was well developed [20].


In his research project Florida found out that the inhabitants of cities performing high on talent and technology are considered to be more tolerant and open towards gays, foreigners, artists and other alienated groups [20].


Talent is also a key factor for a successful Design City. Whereas formerly people went where they found the companies, today's talented individuals first choose a location where they prefer to live and then seek employment. Because of this, companies settle where these people live [20]. At the same time this makes the economy grow. Florida concludes that cities with a high number of talented people grow faster economically and attract other talented and creative people. He goes so far as to say "wealth, infrastructure, industries, or GNP" are not considered to be influential in making the economy grow [1].


In urban areas, where strong technologies exist, workers are more talented. Companies as well as new talented people are attracted [20]. There is also the possibility to get good college or university level education [20]. Technologies in the creative field are a powerful source of social and economic development. They make it possible to market products on a local, national and international level. This is especially important for developing countries, where the creative sector is not well developed, and which are therefore excluded from international trade [6].

Creative Economy

Florida summarizes his ideas on the "creative economy" theory, which mainly emphasizes the importance of creativity before competition [1]. In December 2005, he presented his concept at the congress about competition at the Cambridge-MIT Institute. There are two important terms which are important in defining the "creative economy". The first is "cultural industries".

"Cultural industries" combine the creation, production and commercialization of creative contents which are intangible and cultural in nature. The contents are typically protected by copyright and they can take the form of a good or a service. Cultural industries generally include printing, publishing and multimedia, audiovisual, phonographic and cinematographic productions as well as crafts and design [5].

The guidelines of the Creative Cities Network point out that city creators consider culture and "cultural industries" not only in terms of creating economic growth, which includes employment, but also in terms of the cities' identity.

The second term is "Creative industries". "Creative industries" are part of "cultural industries". "The creative industries are those in which the product or service contains a substantial element of artistic or creative production and include activities such as architecture and advertising" [5]. "Creative industries" are a powerful source of economic and social development.

This so-called "creative economy" is composed of "non-profit and profit sectors" [7]. In fact, more and more countries have acknowledged that creative industries are important and therefore they support their establishment [5].


Being assigned "UNESCO City of Design" is an honorable nomination, but it also means that the city has the responsibility to promote and encourage the future development of Design on a national and an international level. The "Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network", which connects Creative Cities all over the world, works at an international level, but starts locally with every individual city. The local cultural industries are created by public and private partnerships. As a result, experiences are shared and these experiences are beneficial to everyone involved. As a result, cultural products are created nationally and reach, through the use of the network, an international audience [2].

Works Cited

  1. Hochereau, Alain. "Montreal : Centre de créativité international". Montreal Le Voir 5 Jan. 2006. Cahier Special Education et Emplois, Trans. And Ed. Brigitte Schuster
  2. Bernard Larin. 'Montréal est désigné par l'UNESCO comme ville de design : Une Premiére en Amérique du Nord'. Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Cabinet du Maire du Comité Exécutif, 2006. Trans. And Ed. Brigitte Schuster, 17 November 2006
  3. "UNESCO, Wikipedia". 30 Oct. 2006.
  4. "The Global Alliance's Creative Cities Network". UNESCO. 30 Oct. 2006.
  5. "Understanding Creative Industries, Cultural Statistics for Public policy making". UNESCO. 2 Nov. 2006.
  6. "Promoting cultural diversity through cultural industries". UNESCO. 30 Oct. 2006.
  7. "Creative Cities Network-Guidelines". 08 Apr. 2005, UNESCO.
  8. Hassani, Arian. Online Interview. 9 Nov. 2006.
  9. "Creative Cities-promoting social and economic development through cultural industries". Nov. 2004. UNESCO. 30 Oct. 2006.
  10. "10 Cities appointed to the Creative Cities Network, UNESCO". 30 Oct. 2006.
  11. "Buenos Aires, Argentina appointed first UNESCO City of Design". UNESCO. 30 Oct. 2006.
  12. "Buenos Aires Candidature File, UNESCO". UNESCO. 17 Nov. 2006.
  13. "Buenos Aires City Profile". UNESCO. 17 Nov. 2006.
  14. "Berlin, Germany appointed UNESCO City of Design". UNESCO. 17 Nov. 2006
  15. "Berlin City Profile". UNESCO. 17 Nov. 2006.
  16. "Berlin Candidature File". Oct. 2005. Senatsverwaltung fuer Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Frauen/Landesinitative Project Zukunft. 17 Nov. 2006. Trans. And Ed. Brigitte Schuster
  17. "Montréal devient ville du design", Metro/Montreal. 8 May 2006: 4
  18. "How to apply to become a UNESCO Creative City". UNESCO. 30 Oct. 2006.
  19. "Le Canada, le pays de l'ennui". 24Heures/Montreal. 8 Nov. 2006: 3
  20. Richard Florida, and Garry Gates. "Technology and Tolerance: The Importance of Diversity to High-Technology Growth". Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution. 2001. 22 October 2006
Brigitte Schuster


1 interaction

eyecandy SIGNS’s photoeyecandy SIGNS replied on

A shout out from Halifax! Awesome article. You articulate the importance of design so beautifully. I love that just keep bringing it back to responsibility and the role that every city, every community, has in shaping the future of design, identity and quality of life. I would love to see more Canadian cities strive for the standards of UNESCO city of design.

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