I contributed to the 2017 Autumn-Winter Issue of  Design Unlimited. It is one of the thematic magazines focused on design under the title of "unlimited" and sponsored by Vitra. As described on the web page "... unlimited is published bimonthly, 5 times a year with an Annual Book every year. With Architecture and Design Unlimited we meet you every month of the year."

This issue, Design Unlimited wanted to ask opinion leaders their remarks on the term Design Capital. My article titled "Dreaming of Miracles" focused on a comparison of different design cities-design capitals which got this title through different evaluation agents. And uses this comparison to question miraculous expectations on becoming a city of design.

"Transforming into a design capital may not be a cheerful experience after all (...)  Yet, it is also obvious that public, private and tertiary sectors are keen on chasing miracles."

Read the rest of this Turkish-English article on p.30 in Autumn Winter 2017 and the other issues of the magazine click HERE.

Dreaming of miracles 

Hasan Cenk Dereli

Beyond fulfilling institutional criteria, a “design city” can also sustain with the presence of creative economies. We analyzed the subject on the basis of related events

“As he awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” 
franz kafka

Speaking about the present and future of cities, we act as if we can create major transformations with strategies that are adorned with slogans. It is obvious that a city will not transform into a design capital unlike Gregor Samsa who awoke to a nightmare one morning in Franz Kafka’s lines. Transforming into a design capital may not be a cheerful experience after all. Despite everything, if transformation is targeted, it is not so hard to guess that trying to achieve this in a short period of time will be as painful as the suffering of Gregor Samsa. Yet, it is also obvious that public, private and tertiary sectors are keen on chasing miracles. Nevertheless, what should a city, targeting progress in creative industries under the title of design, try to do? UNESCO Creative Cities Network gives us hints in this subject matter. Founded in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network covers 7 creative fields: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Media Arts. It is an initiative that brings together cities with various regions, income levels, opportunities and population to work on creative industries. The mission of the network is to provide cooperation for private, public, professional organizations, communities, NGOs, and culture institutions in cities defining creativity as a strategic factor in sustainable development, in all parts of the world on an international scale. The cities are represented at the highest level of the local management -major level- selected for the network.1 Applicants who would like to obtain the design capital title are required to fulfill the UNESCO Creative Cities Network general application criteria, along with others such as the existing design industry, the culture environment supported by design and the built environment, the presence of design schools, and design research centers, the presence of designer/creative groups that are regularly active on a local or national level, the presence of design fairs, events, and exhibitions, the opportunities for local designers and urban planners to take advantage of local features and natural/urban environment, and the presence of creative economies led by ‘design’. These criteria make up a control list for cities that would like to apply for membership. We observe Berlin, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Kobe, Shenzhen, Nagoya, Saint-Étienne, Seoul, Shanghai, Graz, Peking, Bilbao, Curitiba, Dundee, Helsinki, Torino, Bandung, Budapest, Detroit, Kaunas, Puebla, and Singapore as cities that were entitled as design capitals.2 One cannot help but ask if these cities gathered in a list have any common features supported by numeric data. According to the Human Development Index, which takes gender equality index, maternal mortality ratio, adolescent birth rate, women’s and men’s shares of seats in parliament, percentage of the population 25 years and older to have further education than primary school, ratio of participation to work force of the population 15 years and older defined by the UN, as evaluation criteria; cities in very high, high and medium human development level countries are on the design capitals network.3 According to the Better-Life Index, which ranks OECD countries according to criteria like housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work–life balance; the countries with design capitals do not form any clusters. Countries from every step of the ranking among the design capitals come together in the list.4 The Atkearney Global Cities Index evaluates 125 cities on business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement; while the Atkearney Global Cities Outlook uses personal well-being, economics, innovation, and governance as evaluation criteria. According to Cities Index 2016, Budapest moves back on the list compared to the year 2015 when it was a design capital. When looking at the years they were entitled as design capitals, only Singapore keeps its position on the list, while all cities except Budapest have moved up on the list. The Global Cities Outlook data is much more interesting. According to this; one of the design capitals, Montreal has kept its position on the rank compared to a previous year, Berlin, Nagoya, Seoul, and Singapore move down on the list, while Buenos Aires, Montreal, Peking, Shangai, and Budapest move up.5 It seems like data on the quality of life or the economy are not distinguishing in becoming a design city/capital. The cities that move up and down the list with respect to well-being, economy, innovation, and governance once they become design capitals are out there. Cities that target being design capitals would have jumped too fast to the conclusion by thinking that any city can get this title looking at this table. Because the only common feature of UNESCO creative Cities Network Design Cities prove those who dream of miracles in becoming design capitals overnight that it will not be so easy: the presence of established institutions, initiatives, and events. It would take a long list to state all of these one by one, so I will confine myself to provide a couple examples, and invite those curious to do the further research on their own. Kobe is home to Japan’s second biggest fashion event. Kobe Design Festa works as a platform that tightens the relationships between for the citizens and the concept of design. Berlin hosts prestigious design events such as Designmai, Update, Berlin Fotoğraf Festivali, Walk Of Fashion, and Mode where over 1500 cultural events take place daily. It is the center to design oriented conference and meeting series such as Typo Berlin, AGI Congress, Berlin Interior Motive Design Conference, Design Report, BDG Germany. Montreal is the only city among the Northern American cities since 1991 to possess the position of Design Delegate in the local government. It also owns a municipal strategic plan called Design de Ville, in order to provide all achievements in every field of design that improve the quality of life. The strategies that were developed in cooperation with the private sector and the urban economic management in order to improve the quality of design products has transformed into a license system. Nagoya is one of the first cities to install design at the center urban development. It published the Declaration of Design City in 1989, its centenary, and opened the International Design Center. The city that acts like a design center since that date continues its urban development with sustainable design-focused strategies. Saint Etienne is home to Cite du Design established with the courage of the success of the training in design and the design biennale. The second biggest city in Lithuania, Kaunas, stands out with the few yet qualified institutions in the fields of architecture and design. While the Architecture and Urbanization Research Center keeps a record of the architectural heritage of the city, it also creates an environment for architecture design research. It also brings together architecture and the citizens by developing projects like architectural routes. 

It is apparent that upon the creation of established institutions, initiatives and events with regards to design, obtaining the design city/capital title becomes an option not a necessity. In order to achieve this and embed creativity and the design culture in the city, diminishing the problems encountered in the subjects of faith, organization, coordination and interaction is an important step to take. Developing a long-term strategy with defined critical steps that creates visible outcome is a must. 

Compiled from Dr. Hasan Cenk Dereli’s doctoral thesis entitled “Evaluation of İzmir in the context of UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Design City Criteria” 

1. UNESCO. (2015). Creative Cities Network Applicant’s Handbook. Retrieved 21.05.2016 from 
3. Birleşmiş Milletler (2015). Human Development Report 2015 – “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience””. HDRO (Human Development Report Office) United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved from