Non-measurable effects of cultural institutions - long-term potential for cities and regions

actori Image
unsplash/Geert Pieters
News I Image: 2024, Quaritsch Photography,

Cultural institutions such as theaters, libraries, concert halls and museums are not only places for cultural encounters, but also play a decisive role in urban and regional development. While we looked at the economic effects of cultural institutions in a previous article, we will now turn our attention to the intangible, non-quantifiable effects that can shape the identity and image of a city or region in the long term.

Image effects: More than just a good image
One of the most important intangible effects of cultural institutions are image effects. The image of a city or region can be significantly influenced by cultural beacons. An outstanding and well-known example of this is the effect that the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao had on the perception of the city. With its spectacular architecture and high-quality art exhibitions, the museum changed the perception of Bilbao and attracted tourists, residents and businesses with its increasing attractiveness and recognition value. Similar positive effects were also observed at the Kunsthaus Graz, Phaeno in Wolfsburg and the Culture and Congress Center in Lucerne. Although the economic effects do not come close to Bilbao, there are nevertheless interesting parallels. This was expressed above all in increasing visitor numbers to the venues and a new self-image of the respective city that was not only recognizable in the media.

Infrastructure effects: More than just a venue
Cultural institutions are not just venues, they also have a profound effect on the development of a district or neighborhood and have a significant impact on the surrounding area. An outstanding example of this is the Philharmonie de Paris, whose construction not only contributed to an increase in cultural participation and education, but also made a significant contribution to the transformation of the neighborhood. Recent studies on the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg or the Rotterdam art archive "Depot Boijmans" by MVRDV showed a significant increase in publications about the projects in social media posts after the opening. This not only contributed to the supra-regional perception of the building, but also of the surrounding district. In Hamburg, the attention of visitors to the city shifted increasingly to HafenCity as a whole following the completion of the Elbphilharmonie. In addition to the infrastructural effects resulting from the versatile use of new facilities, the transformative effect on the respective district should therefore also be taken into account or become part of the (location) decision.

Network and competence effects: More than just events
Various stakeholders work together in the environment of a cultural institution - from artists and event organizers to companies, academics and sponsors. This collaboration leads to the formation of networks and cooperations that promote the exchange of knowledge and expertise and strengthen regional cooperation. These networks can be used in the long term to drive innovation and increase the competitiveness of a city or region. Companies, science and culture benefit from joint projects and develop skills that benefit them in other areas, such as employer branding or customer approach. This contributes to the long-term enhancement of skills in a region. In addition, cultural venues such as museums, theaters and libraries can act as places of democracy by serving as platforms for public discourse and cultural exchange. Events such as readings, panel discussions or exhibitions offer space for the exchange of ideas, the exploration of controversial topics and the promotion of critical thinking. This in turn helps to strengthen civil society and promote an open and inclusive society.

The long-term effects of cultural institutions on a city are manifold. They increase the attractiveness for tourism, encourage residents to identify with their city and attract new businesses. Enhancing the image, improving the infrastructure, creating networks and developing new skills all contribute to making a city more competitive in the long term. Cultural institutions are therefore not only places for high culture, but also key players in the long-term development of cities and regions. Their intangible effects can make a significant contribution to promoting the culture, economy and identity of a city.

actori can help to make these effects visible and evaluate them. On the one hand, this can help in planning and preparing decisions on new infrastructure projects, and on the other hand it can be part of (but not the only part of) the development of relevance strategies.

1) 2)

A contribution by Jonas Salzer, Consulting.

Go back