In the recent aftermath of the global recession businesses, cities and states are looking for new ways of stimulating growth. Cities are today the most important motors of national economies: it is estimated that in the EU countries 80% of GNP will be generated by cities in 2030. Many plans have been made to stimulate growth at a larger national scale by supporting public investments in infrastructure and educational facilities and one potential area for investment which bridges both of these growth areas, and often over-looked is the public realm potentially a very sage investment in the endeavor of growth promotion.
Gehl Architects have together with Realdania By written a report that examines the connections between public space, business, innovation and growth through a number of principles and best practice examples. The document can be downloaded here (Danish language version only).
The OECD operates with a number of different arms one of which is related to business development and innovation related growth produced the report: Growth Follow-Up: Micro-Policies for Growth and Productivity which analyses the growth in 27 EU countries. The report finds four factors to be of importance to growth:
1./ Human resources
2./ Knowledge building and knowledge distribution
3./ Use of IT
So in order to stimulate growth we need to create urban environments that can support and nurture these crucial factors. Public space should be understood as a “missing link” between the large scale regional infrastructure initiatives such as airports, highways and transit hubs, and the small scale internal infrastructure of the businesses such as interior décor, office lay-out and structure. Both of these are well recognized as strategically very important in business location and culture, yet the city itself also plays a crucial, if not the most important role in attracting the right talent and generating enough stimuli to achieve the best and most innovative performances from employees (as Richard Florida explores in his theories about cities and the Creative Class (2002)). Harvard professor Ed Glaeser expands the suggestion in the “Triumph of the City” (2012) describing how businesses locating in well-functioning cities can boost innovation and productivity significantly. The public space and public life implications of this are implicit however to be exact to business accounting we can add that Signal Architects have found that 15-30% of a workday is spent outside the office space so we should pose the question; How can these hours be beneficial to the business and the surrounding city? To introduce a high impact innovative public realm there are three levels of action and actors that must be considered: The Public Space, The Business and The Employee.
Tomorrow we will expand on these categories individually and explore how practically they can be developed towards promoting growth. The full report can be downloaded here (Danish language version only).