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Alternative creative spaces and neo-liberal urban transformations: Lessons and dilemmas from three European case studies

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Robert Hollands



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Examples of alternative creative spaces exist in nearly all cities, arising at different historical periods, with all now weathering the recent corrosive effects of neo-liberal urbanisation and incorporative creative city policies. This paper examines three such spaces, the ‘art house’ KuLe which formed immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall; the alternative cultural centre OT301 which came about in Amsterdam in 1999 just around the beginnings of the ‘creative city turn’; and MACAO an urban cultural movement/ space which emerged in Milan in 2012, following the effects of the 2008 financial crash on creative work precarity. The key contribution this article makes to the literature on urban resistance and incorporation, is to provide a multi-layered historical analyses of three alternative creative spaces, existing in three different European cities, which emerged in three slightly varying time periods in relation to the development of the neo-liberal creative city. The first section of the paper conceptually outlines and critiques the coming together of neo-liberal and creative city transformations, provides a typology of what is meant by alternative creative spaces, and examines the importance of historical and place factors. The remainder of the article analytically explores the specific ‘place histories’ of the three alternative spaces mentioned above, as well as unveils their common current dilemmas, as they struggle to exist in the contemporary period. How have such spaces coped with the increasing pressures of property development, gentrification, and cultural incorporation, and what are the main difficulties and barriers today to surviving, and linking up to other urban social movements to create wider political change? It is argued that while the challenges here are considerable, these three spaces provide nuanced lessons and dilemmas common to all types of alternative creative spaces.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hollands R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: City

Year: 2019

Volume: 23

Issue: 6

Pages: 732-750

Online publication date: 06/02/2020

Acceptance date: 12/12/2019

Date deposited: 06/02/2020

ISSN (print): 1360-4813

ISSN (electronic): 1470-3629

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2020.1720236


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