This research was commissioned to assist the City of Sydney in developing an up-to-date, wide-ranging understanding of its future needs for creative space, especially with regard to cultural creation and production.  Most studies of creative space tend to focus on the material aspects of cultural venues and infrastructure, such as capacity, design or building quality.  This research, however, was concerned principally with the wider social and economic environment within which creative spaces operate as crucial elements of the cultural production process.  It was underpinned by 18 case studies of creative spaces in the Redfern and Green Square Villages, and 5 interviews with key stakeholders across Sydney’s cultural sector.  

The research reflected critically on the impact of commercialisation, gentrification and casualisation on creative work and space, identifying 8 major issues facing artists and cultural practitioners in the City.  In particular, the study highlighted the shortage of suitable creative space due to intensifying inward population movement, disappearance of industrial buildings, and rising property prices.  It demonstrated that artists and cultural practitioners are facing growing socio-economic barriers in the conduct of their work.  The research revealed a complex picture of creative space in terms of use, activity, community and cultural relationships.  The Report proposed a series of interlinked recommendations to help protect and develop creative spaces in the City, including support for artists and cultural practitioners through a ‘place keeping’ approach to urban cultural planning that embraces cultural creation and production in the City and Greater Metropolitan Sydney.

The Report provides:

  • 3 case studies of creative space from other cities around the world (London, Toronto and Melbourne) in order to situate Sydney in its international context and to generate new insights into creative space planning in Sydney;
  • Quantitative analysis of the latest available data from the Census of Population and Housing and City of Sydney Floorspace and Employment Survey to provide evidence of the latest demographic, economic and land-use changes in the 2 case studies of Redfern and Green Square Villages;
  • 18 in-depth qualitative case study analyses of cultural venues based on semi-structured interviews and ‘walking interviews’ with creative space managers and users.  Various art forms and creative enterprises were covered, including multi- and single purpose spaces for visual art, sculpture and installation art, performing art, creative classes, radio production, digital and media, music recording, and TV production.

The major findings of the Report are:

  • There is a general lack of suitable creative space for artists and creative practitioners in the City owing to the decline in the building stock of light-industrial buildings and small warehouses arising from large-scale gentrification and high-rise development in recent decades.
  • The surge in property values, especially in the last five years, has caused serious affordability problems for artists and creative practitioners who tend to earn modest incomes.  Many are compelled to accept various constraints imposed on their leases (such as short-term tenure or sharp rental increases) due to limited alternative creative and domicile options available in the City.
  • Economically marginalised artists are being forced out of inner-city neighbourhoods and increasing number of non-commercial cultural organisations, especially those supporting emerging artists or non-mainstream cultural forms, have ceased operating because of their inability to sustain themselves financially, thus hampering the development of creative clusters in the City.
  • The wide diversity of cultural and creative practices has posed difficulties for government planning and supporting initiatives for creative space.  In particular, ‘one size fit all’ solutions are deemed unsuitable in tackling the creative space problem.  Planning constraints and building controls constitute additional hurdles to turning former industrial buildings into creative spaces.
  • Artists and cultural practitioners face difficulties in relocating to other parts of the metropolis, such as Western Sydney, because suitable or affordable space is not readily available for under-capitalised artists.  The demand for such space is, in fact, rising among local artists and creators in Greater Western Sydney, meaning that the shortage is being exacerbated across the metropolitan region.

Based on the major issues identified in this study, the Report proposes a series of interlinked recommendations to help protect and develop creative spaces in the City.  These are:

  • Expanding visibility and availability of suitable and affordable space for cultural creation and production.  Increase the volume of creative space through encouraging non-government entities to provide space to the cultural sector and through planning reforms at the State level, such as the use of Community Infrastructure Levy in the UK and similar policy levers in Victoria.
  • Mapping and saving remaining industrial buildings for potential cultural investment and activating general space for creative enterprises and affordable housing for artists.  Easing planning restrictions and building controls to stimulate cultural and creative practice.
  • Increasing support mechanisms to protect and enhance creative clusters.  Initiating government intervention to address the funding gaps in the support of emerging artists and small cultural organisations.  Facilitate knowledge-sharing between creative clusters in order to combine resources, such as exploring the potential of major cultural institutions and universities to play a greater role in the provision of creative space.
  • Enhancing the prospect of artists and creative practitioners relocating to other parts of metropolitan Sydney through fostering cross-sectoral partnerships among local councils and government agencies, and supporting creative brokers to facilitate collaboration between different constituencies and stakeholders within the cultural sector.

In summary, the Report recommends a ‘place keeping’ approach to urban cultural planning that provides a useful framework for recognising the immediate demands and longer-term responsibilities necessary to support artists, cultural practitioners, organisations and culture across the City of Sydney and the whole metropolis.  It recommends helping government cultural planning bodies to prioritise multi-layered actions to safeguard and nurture cultural creation and production in the City and urban region.


Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
99 pages
Publication place:
Penrith, N.S.W.