T
he Creative Class Group was invited to collaborate and provide feedback on Frankfurt’s New Work City as a concept of a new way of working for the mobile Creative Class.  Read our review below and let us know your thoughts.

The Creative Class, the Fourth Place and Frankfurt’s “New Work City” at The Squaire

By: The Creative Class Group

We are in the midst of a deep and fundamental transformation in the nature of capitalism.  The economic crisis of 2008 was more than just a transient correction; it represents the critical break point in the shift from industrial to knowledge-based and creative capitalism.  Even as leading economic indicators are beginning to trend positively, the fact remains that our economy is undergoing a Great Reset.

Five key trends illustrate how this new phase of capitalism, which is based fundamentally on ideas, is shifting the nature of economic competitiveness:

  • First, economic competitiveness now turns less on access to natural resources or giant factories and much more on harnessing human creativity—from the R&D lab and design center to the factory floor.
  • Second, place is supplanting the industrial corporation as the key economic and social organizing unit of capitalism. Density, the clustering of creative people—in cities, regions, and neighborhoods—provides a key spur to innovation and competitiveness.
  • Third, the rise of a new geographic unit – the mega-region – is supplanting both the nation-state and the metropolitan areas of cities and suburbs as the natural economic unit. The world’s 40 largest mega-regions places like Europe’s Amsterdam-Brussels-Antwerp, America’s New York-Washington-Boston Corridor, Asia’s Shanghai and Beijing axis, and India’s Mumbai-Poona and Bangalore-Madras corridor—produce two-thirds of the world’s economic output and nine in ten of its innovations, while housing less than 18 percent of its population.
  • Fourth, innovation, competitiveness and rising living standards now require an increased and accelerated velocity for moving goods, people and ideas.
  • Fifth, we are now seeing the rise of new environments for living and working which leverage these trends – harnessing and tapping the creativity of the largest number of workers, bringing people together in dense and flexible and arrangements, and accelerating the velocity of people and their exchanges. These experiments are in their infancy, but point the way to a more prosperous future.

In their new book, economic sociologist John Kasarda of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and Greg Lindsay make a powerful case for the role played by “aerotropolis” integrated innovation, production and logistic clusters that grow up around major international airports. “Airports will shape business location and urban development in the 21st century as much as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th and seaports in the 18th,” writes Kasarda. Instead of building or expanding airports on the peripheries of existing cities, aerotropolises, as their name implies, form the nuclei of whole new cities.  These aeroptroplises,  Kasarda explains, are  “powerful engines of local economic development, attracting aviation-linked businesses of all types to their environs. These include, among others, time-sensitive manufacturing and distribution; hotel, entertainment, retail, convention, trade and exhibition complexes; and office buildings that house air-travel intensive executives and professionals.”

A thousand years ago, Frankfurt’s location on the Main River made it a center for trade; its airport and highways and railroads make it a hub for business travelers today. Frankfurt International Airport is the ninth busiest airport in the world, it serves more international destinations than any other airport; it is Germany’s busiest and Europe’s third busiest airport and second busiest cargo airport

Dubai’s and Bangkok’s proposed aerotropolises might be larger, but Frankfurt’s existing airport already has the traffic—some of it travelers who are just passing through, others permanent residents of the city or region.

Located just fifteen minutes by car or train from downtown Frankfurt, is also within driving distance of a large economic region. Frankfurt has long been a creative center as well as a business district. Home of Goethe, the Rothschilds and the Frankfurt theorists, it has a unique creative history and culture all its own. Frankfurt has a great university, a critical mass of existing businesses, and, most important, abundant human capital—which is to say, the millions of smart, creative, knowledgeable people who live and work in the area.

And Frankfurt is the hub of the broader “Frank-gart”  mega-region, spanning Frankfurt and Stuttgart, which is home to 23 million people and produces $630 billion in economic output, making it the 10th largest mega-region in the world and the fourth largest in Europe.  Frankfurt Airport’s long-distance train station is the terminus of the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line, which links southern Germany to the Rhine-Ruhr region, the Netherlands, and Belgium at speeds of 190 miles per hour. Munich is also well-linked to the Frankfurt airport.

New Work City at The Squaire located near the Frankfurt International Airport attempts to leverage all five of these economic trends, acting on  both the mega-region and the aerotroplis, providing greater density of interactions, a new physical and social model for work, and a mechanism for speeding the flow of people, goods and ideas. New Work City also represents a break with traditional  20th century principles for airports and aerotropolis, filled as they are with sterile lounges and generic chain coffee shops that are poor substitutes for 21st century knowledge and creative working environments, which ideally provide both a relaxed atmosphere and the amenities needed for social interactions and the infrastructure (wireless access, meeting rooms, teleconferencing capabilities) required for business.

Project leaders say, “Today’s office workers spend less time at their desks.  Instead, they are collaborating, learning and socializing with their peers in more open spaces, such as cafés or urban plazas.” Even with all the advantages of virtual communication—cell phones and iphones, Blackberries, the World Wide Web, video conferencing—personal interaction is vitally important.

The sociologist Ray Oldenburg famously wrote about the need for third places where we can seek refuge from both “the cabin fever of married life” and the pressures of work. “The phrase ‘third places,’” Oldenburg wrote, “derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ’second’”; they are the beauty parlors and post offices and pubs that we go to when we are looking for uncomplicated social interactions. Entrepreneurs and real estate providers are increasingly recognizing the need for  Fourth Places —urban/local infrastructures which allow us to be more productive; places where we can connect and engage and dialogue, but also where we can work. The Squaire with its New Work City concept aims to become a Fourth Place on a larger scale—a central, easily accessible place where business people can network in a leisurely but intensively productive manner.

Despite all the predictions that technology—from the telephone and the automobile to the computer and the Internet—would lead to the death of cities, the creative economy is taking shape around them. Urban density, the clustering of people and firms, is a basic engine of economic life. Place is the factor that organically brings together the economic opportunity and talent, the jobs and the people required for creativity, innovation, and growth. To a surprising extent, cities—and now mega-regions—are supplanting the giant corporation of the industrial age as the central economic and social organizing unit of our time.

As incubators and engines of innovation, cities are more important today than they ever were. The world’s aerotropolises seek to leverage the increasingly interconnected and spiky nature of global capitalism, creating spaces for work and interaction around major transportation nodes. A place like New Work City at The Squaire pushes the aerotropolis concept further adding a social as well as economic space designed to deepen the benefits of clustering and interaction to what is already a significant nexus for transport, travel, and global business.

5 Responses to “The Creative Class, the Fourth Place, and Frankfurt’s “New Work City” at The Squaire by The Creative Class Group”

  1. Michael Wells Says:

    What about technology in your list of key trends? I’d say that the Internet, smart phones, e-mail, social networking, Skype, fiber optic cables, wi-fi, 3G or 4G technology, etc., etc. are hugely significant in changing the world economy and society and are part of why businesses are holding off on investing. They want to see how things settle before investing in new technology or business lines. While I agree with the clustering idea and importance of location, technology has a huge multiplier effect on creativity.

    My wife just spent a month in Pune, India. Twenty years ago when she went we could talk by the only phone in her hotel — in the lobby. And sometimes the entire country was unavailable by phone! Over the years fax and e-mail have changed how we communicate. This time we Skyped using her laptop in her apartment, for free, with pretty good video quality.

    And various little innovations. A rickshaw driver that several of her friends use keeps an Indian cell-phone for their use when they’re in Pune, they just have to buy new SIM cards. And he e-mailed her before she left to say he’d meet her at the airport.

    She actually flew through Frankfort and e-mailed me from an airport computer. I could track her plane on the Lutfthansa website.

    I just got an iPad. I’m going to Mexico in a couple of weeks and realize that rather than hauling the usual pile of books, I can have them all with me at the same time using very little space or weight.

  2. Will Thomas Says:

    I’m curious now to read Kasarda and Lindsay’s book to see if they discuss the Dulles Corridor outside Washington D.C. A tech industry “city” has grown up around Dulles International Airport, with plenty of tech companies (AOL among them, for example), and the residential areas have grown beyond the original suburban commuters into Washington D.C. itself to include plenty of people who live, work, and play around Dulles while still having relatively easy access to all the D.C. area has to offer. I’ve never found a good evaluation of the growth of this area, though, so I’m going to have to look for their book and see if they offer one.

  3. Mike Linacre Says:

    Have looked at the Squaire website: http://www.thesquaire.com/en/ – To me, the Squaire looks like a cross between the Thompson Center in Chicago and the Woodfield Shopping Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. It seems to be the office-equivalent of an airport hotel: a great place for a project group to meet once a month. But would they stay inside that building to socialize? Is it really a place to which creative people would naturally gravitate?

  4. Jodi Turner Says:

    I agree with your fifth key stating that we are starting to harness more creativity but going beyond that and putting those that are creative and motivated in an open enviroment. In this type of place people can share and collaborate more freely. This is happeneing everywhere, and people are starting to jump on board. This is a perfect example of what is happening here in Rock Hill SC. We are taking creative and motivated college students putting them in an “Open Space” and teaching collaboration and creativity! The possibilites are endless.

  5. Jeff Cutts Says:

    I really wonder sometimes what age the modern day city planners are.
    Those in their 30s for instance would never have had the opportunity to use an old VZ200 computer that had small rubber squeaky keys. To load the program we used a tape recorder, the information literally took ten minutes to load! We were able to build great biceps, just carrying our “brick” mobile phone. Oh the speed of technology and how it has eased the burden on city planners and shaped our cities.

    Now to the modern day, planners have all modern electronic trickery to create our cities, but despite the technology many of our so called modern Cities are nothing but places of high density over populated, choked up places to breath your daily dose of Carbon Monoxide!..Whatever happened to Satellite Cities?