The creative milieu

Given that people now have more choice and mobility about where they want to be, the physical setting, ambience and atmosphere is of upmost importance. This is the stage, the container or platform within which activity takes place and develops. It generates the milieu or environment. The milieu mixes hard and soft infrastructure. The hard consists of roads, buildings and physical things, the soft the interactions between people, the intangible feelings people have about the place.

A creative milieu can be a room, an office, a building, a set of buildings, a refurbished warehouse, a campus, a street, an area, a neighbourhood or occasionally a city. These places can equally be completely uncreative. What makes a milieu creative is that it gives the user the sense that they can shape, create and make the place they are in, that they are an active participant rather than a passive consumer, and that they are an agent of change rather than a victim. These environments are open, but they do have unspoken rules of engagement. They are not wild for the sake of wildness, so that things dissolve in chaos, but they accept the need to be stretched. Things are being tried out and there are experiments. It might mean someone hidden away in an office is experimenting with new software and in the public realm it might mean a new type of restaurant either in terms of food or decor and style. It is likely to mean that the products and services of the local area are sold and used there. There is likely to be a focus on being 'authentic', though what this means will always differ depending on context.

A cautionary proviso: such an environment will also attract outsiders who may only consume and give nothing back. They borrow the landscape, chew it, digest it and spit it out. We should be mindful that tourists can drain the identity of places if their numbers overwhelm the locals.

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