The lure of cultural quarters is hard to ignore

The lure of cultural quarters is hard to ignore

What could be better than exploring the cultural districts that bring together the crème de la crème of the art world? Immersing yourself in the delights of cultural and creative experiences is nothing short of a whimsical experience. That’s why cities around the world are capitalizing on their priceless cultural treasures and creative geniuses to design pockets of cultural quarters on city maps in a way that’s both urban and distinctive. A typical cultural district enjoys a lovely aesthetic appearance, not to mention an appealing menu of cultural activities in museums, performance halls, art galleries, libraries, heritage sites, outlets at the retail and catering establishments.

Around the world, planners are integrating cultural quarters as exciting signposts in urban regeneration strategies. Such investment can unlock many benefits, which research shows include job creation, attraction of tourism, attraction of creative businesses, increased property values, increased levels of income, being a magnet for the well-educated creative classes and contributing to a dynamic and creative hub.

Cultural districts may also be best placed to boost global and local tourism, as they tap into a unique mix of offerings. The World Tourism Organization estimates that cultural tourists account for 40% of tourism worldwide, also citing it as one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry. These investments would also pave the way for programs to create jobs, preserve cultural heritage and regenerate urban and rural areas. Studies also suggest that regular access to creative and cultural activities plays a central role in improving the physical and mental well-being of citizens, while strengthening social cohesion, fostering cultural understanding and boosting pride. citizens towards their heritage.

Major tourism players lure visitors with an array of exhilarating experiences in local cultural districts, such as Paris, Seoul, Melbourne, London and New York. The case of the West Kowloon cultural district in Hong Kong illustrates the importance of cultural districts. This spectacular 40-hectare urban space overlooks the spellbinding Victoria Harbor and brings together an exceptional menu of cultural activities.

Around the world, planners are integrating cultural quarters as exciting signposts in urban regeneration strategies

Sara Al Mulla

The Hong Kong Palace Museum was newly opened in July 2022 as a 7,800 square meter gallery displaying over 900 priceless and remarkable paintings, calligraphy, decorative arts and rare books from the Palace Museum. The M+ building, inaugurated in November 2021, aims to be one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to modern and contemporary visual culture. The Art Park is a beautiful green space where visitors can picnic, walk their pets, cycle, relax and play. Visitors can also enjoy numerous outdoor shows, cultural events and exhibitions, as well as have a meal in the restaurants and cafes of the port.

The Melbourne Arts Precinct is currently undergoing a massive transformation to become one of the world’s leading creative and cultural destinations. To achieve this ambitious vision, the Victorian government announced a $1.7 billion budget to add new facilities to the area, including an 18,000 square meter public garden, a gallery dedicated to contemporary art and design , expanded spaces for outdoor art and performance, upgraded transportation, and spaces and facilities to support small and medium creative enterprises. It currently has one of the highest concentrations of cultural and creative organizations in the world and is home to world-class arts education and training institutions, art galleries, theatres, concert halls, entertainment facilities, and more. public art, studios, creative workspaces and restaurants. .

Another example is downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, a bustling arts and entertainment scene that draws more than 2 million visitors a year. The 14-square-block area is dotted with seven outstanding theaters, a dozen art galleries, eight public parks and art facilities, 50 dining establishments and 90 retail outlets. Plus, culture vultures will be delighted year-round with a host of fantastic events including live entertainment, contemporary music, dance, visual arts, classical music, opera, ballet, musicals and movies.

The Arab world is also at the forefront of designing cultural quarters that dazzle visitors. The region is home to exceptional heritage sites, cultural treasures and contemporary works by local talent, which form the perfect combination to create such neighborhoods. Policymakers and urban planners are encouraged to orchestrate these efforts in revitalized areas that celebrate the range of cultural offerings that cities and the creative classes can offer. At the same time, consideration should also be given to attracting retail outlets, dining establishments, public parks, artist and production studios, and educational institutions.

To illustrate a thriving example, Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat cultural district is home to museums, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim, Manarat Al Saadiyat and the Zayed National Museum. Al-Quoz Creative Zone in Dubai is gaining momentum as a new creative hotspot, serving as a hub that provides rental space, facilities, services and incentives for creative businesses and talent to thrive in the city . The area’s mixed-use masterplan also includes affordable housing for more than 8,000 people, a base capacity of 20,000 active creatives, and plans to bolster creative spaces, leisure services and commercial outlets a times completed.

Close to Kuwait City, the Kuwait National Cultural District delights visitors with its striking architecture and exceptional cultural offerings. The Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center is a multidisciplinary public space, organizing events in music, theater, cinema and educational workshops. Additionally, the Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Center is built on a 13-hectare site and includes a number of fascinating museums, such as the Natural History Museum, Science and Technology Museum, Science Museum Islamic Arabs and the Space Museum.

Arab countries have a unique opportunity to leverage cultural districts in a way that celebrates their cultures while shaping more inclusive societies and driving economic growth.

  • Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with interests in human development policy and children’s literature. She can be contacted at

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

About Margaret L. Portillo

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