Prepurchase Marcus Westbury's Creating Cities - the book

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by anonymous on Wednesday 10 July 2013.

Prepurchase Marcus Westbury's Creating Cities - the book image Prepurchase Marcus Westbury's Creating Cities - the book image Prepurchase Marcus Westbury's Creating Cities - the book image

Local communities are making more and buying less and this has profound implications for the cities that we build and the communities we live in. Marcus Westbury, founder of the Renew Australia project which successfully re-purposes derelict retail spaces for usage by creative enterprises, is writing a new book which can be pre-purchased through the crowd-funding website Pozible.

Creating Cities will be a small book about big ideas for local places. Creativity is proliferating while traditional retail and the places that once accommodated it are in a spiral of decline.

Creating Cities argues that technology, creativity and the initiative of local communities themselves are profoundly changing the possibilities of local places.

Creating Cities explores how low barriers to entry online have made it easier to make, share and distribute (think Etsy, I-Tunes, 3D printing, Amazon and E-Books) but our physical communities have higher barriers to entry than ever. We need to shift our thinking about what places are, how they work, and how we engage and imagine them. We need to look not just the hardware of our physical spaces but the software of how our cities behave to make it easier for people with creativity and imagination (but not capital) to do stuff. Initiative and imagination are as important as infrastructure but it’s rarely a major part of how we make places.

Sounds like an interesting but theoretical idea, right? Well, it would be except the whole argument is based on something I’ve done: a real world experiment — indeed a few of them by now.

In 2008 I established Renew Newcastle a not for profit, low budget DIY urban renewal scheme in my home town of Newcastle, Australia. Newcastle an ex-steelworking city with more than a hundred empty and derelict buildings in the city centre. Four years later, through some smart hacks of the legal system and simple, cheap, and imaginative strategies that tapped the imagination and enthusiasm of artists, makers, entrepreneurs and doers Renew Newcastle has launched more than 120 projects in more than 50 once empty buildings. In 2011, as a direct result, Lonely Planet declared the city one of the top 10 cities to visit in the world.

More recently Renew Australia have begun to take this work and thinking to other parts of the country (and occasionally the world). We’ve applied a logic that was originally developed around failing industrial towns and retail strips and started to see it have real wins in places like Melbourne’s shiny, new but slightly soulless Docklands where abandoned food courts are becoming studio and coworking spaces and 3D printing and design studios are opening up in long empty shops.