Creative industries are nowadays being regarded with great interest by those seeking to identify new (linked) sources of economic growth and urban renewal, with creative projects frequently adopting “regeneration through culture” as their motto [1
]. The exploitation of artistic creativity is a premise of innovation in numerous sectors and one that in turn makes technological development and economic progress possible [3
]. As a generalization, areas that are more prosperous and more sophisticated can easily sustain cultural-creative activities, and it is possible that they could have attained this level without the prominent feature of cultural added value. Besides this, creativity can generate opportunities for countries in the course of development, since it is a value unique to the cultural context of each country and thus not the prerogative of developed ones [4
In creative activities, professional knowledge and experience and the socio-cultural and material heritage of a place both have a major role to play [5
]. Old craftworking centers that were then industrialized, benefiting from a valuable vernacular patrimony and a population with a wide range of professional qualifications, have the attributes needed today to establish themselves as anchors of development in the creative sector. This is the position in which the great cities of Central and Eastern Europe, whose post-socialist development was characterized by deindustrialization and the shift to a market economy, but one based on knowledge, find themselves [6
]. The creative sector, although new on the scene in the former socialist countries, is aware of the value of the industrial heritage and comprehends activities that have focused on the development of innovative projects via the establishing of technology and science parks and of makerspaces and community spaces, the aim being to transform decayed industrial platforms into areas where creative enterprises can be concentrated [7
Those active in the creative industry sector are predominantly freelancers, NGOs, creative workers, and independent artists/cultural operators, who work flexible hours but are focused on stimulating urban innovation and on creating synergies within interested communities [9
]. However, it is a recognized fact that this sector is a vulnerable one, given the economic insecurity of its activities, the difficulty artists and creative workers have in finding employment, and also the problems they experience in conforming to bureaucratic regulations [10
]. Given this context, the economic development of creative-cultural activities holds out promise as a long-term way forward, yet at the same time, changing these activities into a matter of business transactions risks becoming an obstacle to cultural freedom [11
], something regarded by artists and creative workers as essential for creativity and cultural excellence.
Taking the context described as a jumping-off point, the issues being addressed in this article were expressed in terms of three research questions: (1) What motivation underlie the choice of industrial spaces as a place for carrying out creative activities? (2) What are the evolutionary trends of creative activities temporarily located in brownfields? (3) What are the explanations of the temporary use of brownfields by creative activities? The aim of the research was to analyze the perception of some administrators of creative spaces with a view to identifying the factors that determine the selection and temporary use of brownfields for carrying out creative activities in Timisoara, a post-socialist city with enormous experience in traditional industry. More specific objectives were to identify the mechanisms of functioning and structuring of creative activities in industrial spaces; to understand the way creative actors relate to the use of an industrial space; and to assess factors that influence the carrying-out of creative activities within industrial structures.
2. Conceptual Background
Urban creative spaces have been attracting more and more attention in recent years. They started to be analyzed in a contextual way as soon as the phenomenon of urban gentrification gathered strength [12
] and have begun to be the principal line of approach for the promotion of creative cities [15
]. The concept of “creative city” was conceived as a rubric for urban regeneration [16
], with the emphasis being placed on the revitalization of cities (with potential for economic profitability) by means of creative interventions and cultural activities. A “creative city” is a city where creative people live and/or work, where creative processes take place, and creative products are made, supported by local policies [7
]. According to Lambooy [17
], creative cities have at least four characteristics: Attractiveness, productivity, connectivity, and adaptability, the latter also involving openness to novelty and innovation. The knowledge and creativity based economy is specific to cities having a diverse economic structure, both in terms of the labor market, as a variety of skills, and the types of activities carried out, but also a concentration of people, which generates favorable conditions for communication and interaction [18
]. Besides, interfirm networks characterized by a relatively free flow of information are deeply significant elements of the innovation process in creative cities [19
A city’s economic success is conditioned by the presence of a “creative class” with professionals capable of creating the prerequisites for certain specific activities, including for the creative industries [20
Creative industries define the new knowledge-based economy; they involve the generation of cultural-creative products, creative workers, and the attendant infrastructure [21
]. As input, the creative industries have a cultural dimension, even though the things they produce are chiefly functional [22
]. These are coming to include ever more kinds of production processes, which both integrate creative elements into larger-scale processes and use them as components in a very wide range of sub-sectors. All these extensions and ramifications of definition make it hard to have a coherent discussion about how one might justify State intervention, through public policy, in support of the development of creative activities [23
Being a result of the fertile convergence of arts, culture, businesses, and technologies, spaces associated with creative industries host activities of planning, production, and distribution of goods and services that use intellectual capital as a principal contribution. In a space of this kind, innovative ideas are transformed into creative products or services for society that are based on innovation and generate new opportunities for employment and for urban regeneration [24
The restructuring of urban functions as a consequence of the crisis of classical industry [29
] resulted in a proliferation of abandoned industrial sites and warehouses—brownfield, friche
—in many cities [31
]. During the time of waiting for public town planning projects or private initiatives to reinvent or reinvest in these spaces, it is the creative workers
] who come forward with a more pragmatic vision of how to utilize brownfields. Creative activities are typically small, low capital, and flexible about the spaces they occupy
], which makes abandoned industrial spaces particularly attractive to their practitioners given their low rents, creative atmosphere, and capacity to be transformed to suit their particular needs [36
]. For their part, owners of brownfields see creative workers
and their activities as a provisional, temporary solution that prevents buildings decaying and losing value and as a way of reducing the costs of managing these properties [35
]. As well as this, the new activities add significant symbolic and social capital to these spaces and thus speed up the process of their being recovered for the real estate market [38
].The famous creative industry neighborhoods of SoHo in New York, Ile de Nantes in Nantes, and Montmartre and Rive Gauche in Paris are only a few of the success stories achieved by different artists and creative workers by exploiting the advantages provided by old industrial complexes; they are accessible and well known for their creative activity [36
The concepts of “creativity”, “creative class”, and “creative/cultural industries” prevailing in the Western world since the 1980s were adopted very quickly in discourses that shaped urban development policies in post-socialist contexts [39
]. In post-socialist cities there has been a tendency to adopt very similar approaches to the use of creativity and culture as economic resources [40
] while “top-down” policies have been implemented [41
]. Processes such as the enlargement of the European Union (EU), the increase of the European intercity competitions focused on the use of culture (e.g., European Capital of Culture), and the increase of trans-European networks for sharing knowledge and creative ideas (e.g., the EU-funded Creative Metropoles Projects are elements to support creative activities in post-socialist cities [39
]. Global institutions also play a role in the diffusion of creative city, e.g., the UNESCO Creative Cities Network founded in 2004 which, among others, Krakow joined in 2013, Sofia and Prague (2014), Budapest, Katovice, Kaunas, and Lviv (2015), Brno, Gabrovo, Košice, and Lodz (2017), Veszprém, Sarajevo, and Wroclaw (2019), and Vranje (2020) [42
]. Post-socialist cities follow different paths of development based on their strengths and different legacies. Thus, some can become creative cities starting from their diverse cultural heritage, while others can gradually turn into hubs of technological knowledge. The different local contexts in which creative policies are implemented could influence both the choices made by cities and the results of these policies as they develop over time [40
]. In Poznań, for example, one of the major innovative projects launched after 1990 was the rehabilitation of an industrial ensemble, the former brewery, and its transformation into a cluster of artists, young entrepreneurs, architects, and designers
]. The same is true of New Belgrade, today one of the main areas of concentration of creative activities in Belgrade [44
], and of the city of Novi Sad, where the post-industrial transformation of the Kineska neighborhood on the banks of the Danube has been achieved by means of a spontaneous and informal culture-based movement [45
Over time, socio-economic conditions, the mechanisms governing the real estate market, local planning circumstances, and tensions that can arise with the various interested parties—local authorities, property developers, the owners of the plots concerned, neighboring interests—may have an influence on the repurposing of abandoned spaces [46
]. This being the case, the temporary use
of industrial spaces appears to be a more and more frequently adopted approach, as it is regarded as an intermediate step in the process of restoring these sites to economic usefulness [48
]. Bürgin and Cabane [49
] defined temporary use
in terms of economically marginal activities that occupy abandoned urban sites for a temporary period. The purpose of this temporary use of abandoned spaces is important for the definition of the concept, but this is often hard to determine, since the pioneers of projects of this kind, creative ones included, would generally prefer to achieve permanent status for their activities in their chosen locations. In fact, the trajectory followed by these projects is influenced by a number of factors, the overriding issue being the divergence between the vision/interests of the property owner or the local decisionmakers and that of the administrator of the creative project [50
Frequently linked with a crisis involving a lack of vision for the long-term exploitation of urban spaces, temporary use can become a success story, with an innovating effect on certain types of activity [34
], while at the same time, as a consequence of the immediate and flexible benefits it generates [51
], it may be seen as an opportunity for urban regeneration and renewal [52
], functioning according to alternative principles, based on community involvement and “the common good” [48
]. Temporary use arrangements are in tune with the development needs of activities specific to the modern economy, oriented as it is towards solidarity and community. They offer a moderately priced space for experimentation suited to the setting-up of incubators for creation and for the transformation of non-formal practice into actual occupations [53
]. Temporary use is therefore a particularly attractive option for many start-ups in the creative industries, since it gives creative actors access to easily maintainable spaces that are often located in central areas of cities. Often, however, such a temporary use finds itself facing the need to move on, which means that the temporary users either find themselves a different unoccupied space towards the edge of the city or, for lack of anywhere suitable, have to cease operation [54
3. Territorial Context/Creative Industries in Post-Communist Romania
The way the creative industries have developed in Romania is characteristic of the former socialist countries, shaped as they are by the changes associated with the economic transition. The changes that followed the ending of socialism encouraged population movement and the flow of information, both as an effect of these countries becoming integrated in various international networks, but destabilized that part of the workforce that was involved in the industrial sector, which affected the industrial patrimony (among other aspects). In Romania, the knowledge economy, which exploits such things as creativity, talents, and cognitive and physical capacities, has recently been stimulated by the participation of the creative industries too [55
]. While creative activities are regarded as a viable method of revitalizing industrial complexes [56
], the approach is often a bottom-up
one, with the initiative coming from the creative entrepreneurs. Public policies aimed at the creative sector are sequential and focus on particular domains of activity, while in urban planning strategizing creative activities are viewed only in a patchy way as a means of achieving urban regeneration and preserving the industrial heritage.
Assessments of the status of the creative industries in Romania, carried out in the past 15 years, indicate that the country has a peripheral position in European terms but a much healthier one in terms of these industries’ growth potential [57
]. The creative domain in Romania receives support from funds allocated under the Creative Europe program [58
] for the development of the cultural and audio-visual areas; this program also has a transverse financial component through which all small and medium-sized businesses in the cultural and creative sectors can receive guarantees and credits.
Using the DCMS definition and the SIC (Standard International Classification) industrial classification, the following breakdown of the creative industries, based on the CAEN codes, has been suggested for Romania: architecture, art and culture, handicrafts, design, media, publicity, software, WEB and IT solutions, sport and entertainment, newspapers, and journals
]. Creative activities that have a rapid commercial spin-off (downstream activities) are found chiefly in major urban centers that have a greater potential both in terms of available human capital (in university centers, for example) and as regards demand for products of this kind [60
]. It therefore follows that Romania’s creative economy is concentrated above all in counties with a highly developed urban environment and regional metropolises. The greatest concentration of creative activities is found in the capital. Data from the Ministry of Public Finances show that in Bucharest there are over 20,000 companies that specialize in creative activities—equivalent to over 13% of the city’s economic agents. Also, whole-country statistics show a significant proportion of creative activity businesses in the counties of Cluj (7.5% of all firms registered), Timiș (4.4%), and Iași (3.1%) [61
]. A European Commission assessment published in the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor [62
] used performance indicators to quantify the cultural-creative potential and role of the urban centers of Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Sibiu, and Baia-Mare (Figure 1
). On the basis of their cultural-creative attractiveness, all six cities assessed in the EC Raport competed in 2016 for the title of European City of Culture 2021 (ECoC 2021).
Choosing Timișoara city as a case study is justified by a series of characteristics that, in terms of literature review, could act as favorable premises for the emergence and development of creative activities. The major city of Timișoara is the polarization center of the Western Development Region (NUTS II), the capital of the multicultural Banat region, and the winner of the title of European Capital of Culture 2021. Its numerical size (326,636 inhabitants in 2019) places it in third place among cities in Romania, after the capital of Bucharest, and the Iași city, respectively. Since the 2000s, Timișoara and its polarization area are constantly placed among the top three cities in Romania in terms of socio-economic performance indicators [63
The economic success of Timişoara city in Romania is the result of a cumulative process of urban functions, from political and strategic in the Middle Ages, to the economic center, since the Modern Age. Since the 18th century, the historical region of Banat (currently cross-border) of which Timișoara is part was the outpost of the Industrial Revolution in the current territory of Romania. The industrial spaces multiplied and expanded constantly, they experienced a significant development as a result of the socialist industrialization, and a wide destructuring in the first decade after the transition to the market economy in 1989 [64
Since the middle of the 20th century, as a university center, Timișoara emphasized its university and tertiary and quaternary functions. Thus, the city has now an important number of educated and cosmopolitan consumers, representing a force in many of the complementary fields—educational, cultural, and artistic—fed by the creative industries.
Holding the title of European Capital of Culture received for 2021 by Timișoara confirms the city’s cultural strengths, but this success is also a challenge for more ambitious policies to ensure the long-term development of creative activities in support of a more democratic and sustainable “creative city” symbol.
In Timișoara, the major industrial complexes that had seen intensive development during the communist period gradually ceased operations from 1990 onwards. Although they could no longer fulfil their original purposes—from economic reasons, because of their siting, because they did not conform to current operating standards—those whose buildings are in good condition have the potential to be repurposed through initiatives taken by the creative industries [65
These industrial spaces are characterized by their easy accessibility and proximity to the pericentral urban area. To give an example, the Calea Buziașului industrial complex in the south-eastern part of the city borders on the pericentral area and has a legacy of excellent abandoned sites previously occupied by non-harmful light industry and food industry concerns. Similarly, the one-time Wool Industry, Cigarette Factory, and Fructus industrial spaces, located in the pericentral area and close to the Bega Canal, possess serious regeneration potential and would be equally suitable for creative industry use. The repurposing of Timișoara’s abandoned industrial spaces would a way to regenerate the entire area of which they form part, to revitalize a decayed urban fabric, and to reintegrate into the urban space a number of extensive and currently unused pieces of land. Several disused industrial buildings, including the Cigarette Factory, the Hat Factory, the Garofița, Garment Factory, the Azur Soap and Paint Factory, and the Optica Factory, have recently began the process of functional repurposing, with creative spaces of a non-conformist type operating inside them (exhibitions, spaces for artistic creation, concert halls, etc.), or are being used for underground culture. Yet, the issue of how to make the use of industrial spaces for creative activities permanent remains.
Methodologically speaking, this study involved two stages of research (Figure 2
): (1) The data collection
involved identifying creative spaces in industrial areas, recording their specific features and interviewing their managers, while (2) the data processing and analysis
consisted of locating and mapping the items of interest and assessing the perceptions of creative space managers with a view to pinpointing the structural and functional fixed points of creative spaces in industrial areas and, by implication, the factors that determined their choice of these locations.
Data collection in socio-human research is frequently carried out by means of direct observation [66
], the instrument employed being the observation sheet [68
], which allows data to be recorded about people, processes, and cultures in different clusters [69
] and sets the phenomena analyzed in the context of the spatio-temporal dynamic. In the present study, the observation sheet (Figure 3
) was employed in the period May–July 2019 to identify and record 12 creative spaces currently operating in industrial areas in Timișoara. It also allowed us to classify the particular features of each space in terms of three categories that echoed the research questions addressed in this study: The present and former use of the space
, its physical appearance
(kind of buildings, interior configuration, state of preservation of the buildings), and accessibility of the space in physical and functional terms
. Data collected were then mapped using ArcGIS 10.4 software, with the location of each creative space being established according to its geographical coordinates as taken from Google EarthPro. The identification of degrees of territorial accessibility for the spaces mapped was achieved via a GIS proximity Buffer analysis.
The process of collecting data and information was rounded off, between September 2019 and February 2020, by the application of semi-structured interviews to those responsible for the 12 creative spaces. This piece of qualitative research [70
] was aimed at raising discussion topics that were decided in advance and yet thought out in such a way as to give respondents the freedom to express what was specific to their own situations. The topics raised in the interview grille thus helped us to identify the mechanisms of functioning and structure of the creative activities and to understand respondents’ feelings about the use, even for a temporary period, of industrial buildings.
The qualitative analysis was carried out by extracting information from the interviews [72
] and assigning it to clusters [74
] in accordance with established variables (Figure 4
). The identification, in the course of the interviews, of key words in the form of repeated semantic structures that suggested the existence of factors imposing constraints on the practicing of creative activities completed the qualitative analysis. Results were correlated with an analysis of external factors that could potentially have an influence on the success of creative activities in former industrial spaces, with account being taken here of the role of the local real estate market and of any local authority urban regeneration projects.
6. Discussion and Conclusions
The article presents an exhaustive research of all the creative activities that take place in industrial spaces, in a post-socialist city, Timișoara. Despite the large number of derelict industrial spaces, only 12 of them are refurbished through creative activities.
As in the case of other post-socialist cities, such as Ostrava [79
] or Novi Sad [45
], the present study highlights the importance of small entrepreneurs and spontaneous initiatives in asserting the potential of creative activities to capitalize on the potential of former industrial spaces. A common element seems to be related to the inertia and outdated mentality of the authorities, for which only large-scale projects matter and their inability to perceive the multiple beneficial valences of creative activities in this field. As in the post-socialist cities mentioned above, the intensity and scale at which industrialization took place seem to explain the low interest of the authorities, but also of the entrepreneurial environment and even of the local population for creative activities such as those investigated.
The answers to the research questions addressed by this study, based on an in-depth research, may have helped to understand the intimate springs of the dynamics of the investigated field.
The first research question aimed at investigating the motivations underlying the choice of industrial spaces for the setup of creative activities. Thus, the physical and physiognomic strengths of the wrecked industrial spaces for such activities are significant. The generous dimensions make it possible to combine different activities, namely flexible compartmentalization or the entire process—from creation to production, but also to exhibition and launch events—in the same location). The solid structure of these spaces recommends them to accommodate production processes involving powerful machines and trepidations. Minimalist architecture is preferred by creative workers, for whom any element of aesthetics would have meant a hindrance both in the process of creation and in the exhibition of their works.
The second category of attractive factors are of a financial nature, with direct reference to low rental and maintenance costs; these elements are essential, given that most activities are still in the growth phase, in a socio-economic environment that still does not value them enough.
The third category of favorable factors includes aspects of insertion space. It must be physically accessible (easily accessible to the location by various means and means of transport), or be symbolically accessible (creative invitation), or functionally accessible (if the space is located in close proximity to a previously frequented center for commercial function).
The second research question focused on the evolutionary trends of creative activities located in derelict industrial spaces. In a city with an industrial tradition and traditionally oriented, especially towards financial efficiency and productivity, the sector of creative activities such as those investigated is relatively new and little valued. The activities are timid, and the modest financial benefits make many of the activities grow slowly, remaining for a long time in the hobby stage for their managers. In this way, it is not possible to speak, at this moment, about a well-structured creative community that revolves around these creative spaces. On the other hand, from the analysis of urban planning documents and local authority projects, it resulted in their disinterest in capitalizing on creative activities for the revitalization of neighborhoods and urban regeneration. Such an attitude is undoubtedly an aggravating factor see [80
]. It is worth noting the great variety of activities and creative spaces. This highlights a creative potential worthy of note, able and eager to manifest in various directions and directly connected to the ways of manifestation on a global scale.
The third question sought to reveal the explanations for the temporary use of industrial spaces. The incompatibility of the activity with the present location was a very punctual explanation, the most frequently invoked factor being related to the real estate pressure, which makes the relocation spectrum hover at any moment, as soon as the owners get the price they want. The uncertainty of this type is completed with the financial one, which makes the administrators of the activities to be looking for spaces with more tender rents. The lack of a public database on land prices makes it impossible to objectify information on the impact of real estate pressure.
It remains to be investigated whether the year 2023—when Timişoara will be the European Capital of Culture—will represent a positive bifurcation in the evolution of these activities. In this sense, the directions to be researched, in the future, will aim at: Solving the limitations of this research, related to the availability of data (access to the map of real estate prices and to updated urban development plans) and the analysis of the structuring of a creative class; analysis of the multiplier impact of creative activities and the extent to which they will become profitable and significant in the city’s functional portfolio; and assessing the fermenting role of urban regeneration for the insertion neighborhoods and the types that urban regeneration has taken, starting from these activities.