With its Future Paisley programme, Paisley has demonstrated a drive to improve the town’s public spaces through the medium of regeneration, whereby participation and community input has become a key tool of success. The projects created by Future Paisley intersect past, present, and future, by bringing attention to the town’s history through creative events that can revitalise the town and cooperation with the local community to imagine a future of Paisley that deals with this decade’s challenges head on (think; the pandemic and climate crisis).

The creation of temporary projects such as the Future Paisley Exhibition, and yearly events such as the Spree Festival and Paisley Book Festival are accompanied by more fixed changes to the town’s cultural environment; from the refurbishment of the Paisley Arts Centre to the regeneration of a former derelict building on the high-street into a public library. Future Paisley is a prime example of how a targeted local approach can be heralded as an agent of change to bring communities back in touch with their living environments.

However, one could still wonder how deep the restorative value of cultural events really permeates its locality. If cultural regeneration is a process based on improving quality of life through enhancing a place and its people, are we approaching ‘life’ as a human-centred concept? And, when speaking about cultural regeneration, are we equally thinking about the impact that cultural events and projects have on the natural environment of a place?

De Ceuvel in the north of Amsterdam is a good example of a decentralised site used for creative engagement that places sustainability and nature at the heart of their working practices. Located in a former polluted shipping wharf, the site positions itself as an experimental city playground, made possible through sustainable efforts such as material upcycling, solar panels, compost toilets and a greenhouse – all to minimise the waste generated by the site itself. De Ceuvel consists of a creative hub of 14 houseboats that are rented out as ateliers. One of the houseboats is called the Workship and is also used as a multipurpose studio and has developed its own cultural program of events. De Ceuvel is completed with Asile Flottant – a group of six floating historic ships converted into hotel rooms, and Café de Ceuvel – a cafe/restaurant in the direct entryway of the site.

The project came forth out of the initial desire of a group of artists to create a green community of entrepreneurs and creatives. A subsequent effort led by architects, sustainability experts and members of the community has allowed the site to materialise. Still, while admirable in its sustainable set-up, De Ceuvel has been recognised by some as a project whose set-up might in some ways constrain its ability to become a regenerative local asset.

Lavanga and Drosner (2020) point towards its typology of events and the relatively low consultative power of the neighbourhood as factors that might constrain how De Ceuvel can become ingrained in the lives of residents that live around the site.All in all, it is abundantly clear that De Ceuvel itself is mindful of its environmental footprint and regenerative in its inception and mission. However, could more input from the ‘residential’ community rather than the creative community further increase its local value?

When visiting the Ceuvel café on a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I could not help but notice the ease in blending in with the rest of the visiting audience – mostly consisting of young creatives biking to the site to conscientiously enjoy a piece of biological cake and coffee.In this sense, I hope my visit was a one-off. That in time, De Ceuvel can morph into a long-term sustainable and creative haven for all involved.Not only because it would be too disheartening to see yet another regenerative project being used as an argument for the further gentrification of Amsterdam.

 


Reference:

Lavanga, M., Drosner, M. (2020). ‘Towards a New Paradigm of the Creative City or the Same Devil in Disguise? Culture-led Urban (Re)development and Sustainability’, in Oakley, K. and Banks, M. (ed.) Cultural Industries and the Environmental Crisis. Springer, p.95-109.