Municipality should establish design award
28 February 2007 - In order to strengthen
the creative sector, Amsterdam should establish a design award.
This was said by researcher Robert Kloosterman in a lecture he gave
last night at the Lutherse Kerk.
to Kloosterman, the creative sector is important because competition
focuses on quality rather than price. It therefore offers cities
such as Amsterdam employment that is not vulnerable to competition
from low wage countries.
On the other hand, the sector is rather sensitive to economic fluctuations.
Following the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, Kloosterman sees
culture as a source of subtle coded messages, by which the elite
distinguishes itself from the wannabees. As an atypical
example, he cited musical producer Joop van den Ende, who would
have sold his brand new yellow Mercedes after having been told that
it was completely uncool.
Most of the time, the mechanisms are slightly more subtle. For
example, for starting architects it is important to wear the right
glasses, read the right books and drink the right wine. Knowledge
about such issues is gained through gossip with colleagues at specific
bars and art galleries.
The importance of such local establishments is one of the reasons
why the creative sector is strongly rooted in specific cities. Another
reason is that cities are seen as brands that represent quality.
For example, Rotterdammers are internationally associated with daring
According to Kloosterman, Amsterdam has a strong international
position in advertising, design and publishing houses. According
to O+S, over 30,000 Amsterdammers work in the creative sector.
Although it is according to Kloosterman a dynamic sector, with
many new business start-ups, he also sees threats to Amsterdam’s
position. For example, the city is too small to hold on to talent,
resulting in talent leaking away to cities such as London and New
Writer Paul Scheffer, who got to respond to Kloosterman’s
lecture, suggested that the solution may lie in conceiving of the
Randstad - the Western area comprising Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the
Hague and Utrecht - as one city. The population of the Randstad
is comparable to that of real world cities.
Kloosterman had his doubts. Within creative networks, face to face
contacts are very important, and these are not very easily established
with someone from the Hague.
Another weak point is that Amsterdam has too few critical consumers,
while a critical home base is important because it forces creative
businesses to excel. For example, Kloosterman pointed out that there
are hardly any critical clients of fashion designers in Amsterdam.
This had been noted earlier by a travel
guide, arguing that Dutch fashion designers may be ‘the
hottest thing going’ internationally, but that they are less
appreciated in their own country.
Kloosterman was also concerned about the rise of xenophobia in
our country, because immigrants are important for the vitality of
the creative sector.
Scheffer, who once all but invented multicultural society defeatism,
suggested that we attract the wrong kind of immigrants. While Asian
high potentials scorn our country, we are stuck with low-educated
immigrants who are little use.
Kloosterman did not entirely agree. He pointed out that Moroccans,
the group with about the worst coverage in the media, are very successful
The researcher warned cities that think they can create a cultural
sector from scratch. However, there are possibilities to stimulate
what is already present.
For example, rewards and competitions can play an important role.
Not only do they offer starting creative entrepreneurs an opportunity
to make a brake through. The participation in juries also strengthens
networks within the creative sector.
Kloosterman therefore found that the municipality should establish
a design award.
He was indirectly supported by a council member from Haarlem, who
pointed out that almost all successful Moroccan novelists emanate
from the El Hizjra literature award.
Incidentally, the same council member asked himself what to find
of his city’s master plan to create a creative sector, now
that Kloosterman had explained that such efforts are often a non-starter.
The lecture by Kloosterman was part of a series of Amsterdam
lectures organised by the University of Amsterdam.
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