The hard and the soft

To make a milieu happen requires infrastructures beyond the hardware - the buildings, roads and sewerage systems. Soft infrastructure includes the mental, the attitudes of mind, and even spiritual infrastructure, the aspirational core. It is the informal and formal intellectual infrastructure. The soft also includes the atmosphere which is allowed to exist by giving vent to the emotional realm of experiences and which is more visceral. We need to remember that essentially no city plans start with words like 'happy' or 'beauty'. There are technically driven and conceived. No wonder there is little interest from the broader public. The soft milieu needs to allow space for the maverick, the boundary breaker, as this person is often is one that looks at a problem or opportunity in a new light. The environment also fosters linkages within itself and with the outside world, as otherwise it does not sufficiently learn from the best of what others are doing. Collectively these attributes create a culture of entrepreneurship.

But creative places are not comfortable places.70 Those pushing at the edges continuously bump into vested interests, whether those be in their own organizations or outside in the wider city, as the new collides with the old. In these moments the purposes of good city-making get lost in power struggles at both micro and macro levels. It can be extraordinary petty things that kill off good ideas: a person in charge who doesn't like an intelligent upstart and wants to protect their sphere of power or influence or a regulation that makes no sense in the current context, but which someone insists upon. One only needs to remember cities in transition, from Florence way back and Berlin in the Weimar Republic to Shanghai today, to appreciate that being creative involves power struggles. Creative places have a creative rub, they often live in a tense but dynamic equilibrium.

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