Urban renaissance in a creative economy


Up to the 1990s, many of Europe’s metropolises had lost
a share of their population. Classic industrial corporations,
the steelworks, chemical plants and auto factories
that had once grown up around urban centres, closed
their gates, laid off workers, or relocated elsewhere.
Inner city regions began to sink into poverty, with the
middle classes moving to suburban areas. In addition,
in the 1980s and 1990s the numerically strong baby
boomer generation had reached ages between 25 and
40, started up families and built houses outside the
inner cities. The consequence was that — to cite an example
— London’s population declined from 8.2 million
in 1950 to a record low level of 6.35 million in 1983. The
same fate was in store for Birmingham, Essen, Milan,
or Turin. After unification Berlin, the German capital,
where industry had been kept in town during the years
of partition by paying it huge subsidies, and where the
Wall made suburbanization impossible, experienced
this development virtually in time-lapse mode: By 1990
Berlin, now reunited, had lost some 150,000 manufacturing
jobs and 45,000 of its citizens — even though
the relocation of the German federal government to the
city brought with it a huge number of civil servants and


In the meantime, however, many big European cities
have stabilized or even started to grow again. This has
to do with a fundamental change in the structure of
employment. What decides economic strength today
is increasingly less manufacturing industries and
increasingly more knowledge-intensive industries, with
new jobs being created for well-trained banking and
insurance experts, for scientists and teaching personnel,
for media workers or business consultants. The
new growth industries are not at all space-intensive,
they tend to emerge in clusters. These companies seek
proximity to similar businesses, they need to be wellconnected
to sources of information and transportation
infrastructure, and they seek contact with political
decision-makers. And all this they find far more easily in
urban conurbations than in remote regions.




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