At a real estate event that I attended this week on creative workspaces, property developers focused upon ‘the creative classes’, ‘millennials’, the value of collaborative work-spaces and their well-designed bike racks.
As ever, the sales pitch was that these places express the power of ‘we’ and are havens for creativity, co-design and co-everything for a new post-industrial, post-work, well-being-centered generation.
Post-Brexit, will this form of workspace start to feel like a form of gated community, an over-curated place capable of generating an address but not a genuine sense of belonging?
In the Brexit vote, densely populated urban areas in the UK with a lot of young people, such as Hackney and Islington in London, voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union.
Areas where more residents had higher education skewed sharply to Remain, while areas where a more had no formal qualifications were slightly more likely to vote Leave.
The vote expressed divisions and victory for Leave articulated a cosmopolitanism that many within the UK don’t like, or want.
Put another way, swathes of fellow citizens are just not in step with cultures of rolled-up jeans, Tumblr times — or multiculturalism.
So will creative, educated communities in our cities now start to notice an elitism, feel uncomfortable about it and change their ways and habits?
Will global elites in our cities now get down and dirty with the rest?
Taste and fashion err towards more inclusion and localism?
Will the politically-corect ‘right-on’ tag that has long besmirched the idea of inclusion now disappear?
And what might all this mean to the kinds of places that we support, create and grow for ourselves, and that in so many ways are a reflection of our hopes, dreams and self-identity?
It feels as if the new moral and economic climate — and an associated ‘tech drain’ that will play through the Telecommunications, Media and Technology market — will mean that place-making will be forced to open up to a new, more diverse set of users.
Landlords will have to worry more about the challenges presented by less free movement of labour, such as a low levels of productivity and skills, and decrease in external finance for enterprise, such as for corporate R & D.
The connected-ness between ‘creative communities’, elites and the places that they inhabit with other communities will need to change.
To my mind, it is entrepreneurialism, intergenerational relations, and grassroots localism that will hold the clue.
Images: Francis Alÿs: From ‘Seven Walks’, 8 September 20 November 2005 — an Artangel Commission.