What would you create if you could build a city from scratch? Artist Damien Hirst, the world’s most successful artist by measure of net worth ($350M) looks to be making his vision a reality, with his plan to build his own designer city given the green light. The city, dubbed “Hirstville” by critics, will be on the outskirts of Ilfracome in North Devon, UK. The plan is divisive and controversial, with some arguing that he is treating the city like a commodity and calling it a “vanity project”. Those in support argue that the project will create jobs and population growth. The project will see the construction of 750 homes, a school, playgrounds, office buildings and a health centre.

Can artists and designers have a positive influence on cities? New York City’s Department of Transport has an on-going Urban Art project that sees the whole city like a canvas for art. The project aims to invigorate streetscapes with murals, sculptures and projections. Concrete slabs have been turned into creative murals. Street installations have brightened up the streets. Decorating streets will attract tourists and improve morale of those who live and do business in these spaces.

Designer cities are not a new concept. Songdo in South Korea was conceptualised by the architects Kohn Petersen Fox as a city of the future. It boasts the wide boulevards of Paris, a New York style Central Park, tiny beautiful parks like Savannah, a canal system inspired by Venice, and a Sydney Opera House-style convention centre. It is the poster-child for a smart city…but lacks history. Model cities like Songdo are a reflection of contemporary designers’ visions. But what really creates a city is those who live in it, the people.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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