As one of Germany’s most populated cities, it is no surprise that Munich is a well-loved place to call home. With promising job opportunities and a strong local culture, the city seems like it would be a massive draw for creative workers. In fact, “The Role of Creativity in Munich’s Economy” states that over 25% of the companies in Munich are in the creative and knowledge-intensive industries. These industries include, but aren’t limited to, engineering in fields like medical and automotive, service organizations such as banks and law practices, and traditionally creative fields like technology, marketing, and television. For a city built on creative industry, there’s an evident lack of creative subculture.
In 2003, Munich’s companies invested 4.6 billion euro in researching and development. The city was second in Germany only to Stuttgart in these figures. Munich is a hub for foreign nationals, and the international community provides lessons in tolerance, a marked necessity in creative communities. Munich files “twice as many patents as the national average” (12). What does that mean? Progress. A patent “always proves that new scientific and/or technological knowledge has been generated” (12). Munich is thriving. With all these benefits, Munich should already be a creative hot spot where tech start-ups and art thrive – but it hasn’t worked out that way.
What makes Munich attractive as a place to live and work in creative industries doesn’t necessarily promote a creative subculture. Despite the availability of theaters, galleries, and places of artistic inspiration, the high cost of living amongst such treasures isn’t conducive to a bohemian artist’s lifestyle. Lack of available space forces studio rents to skyrocket. What Munich can provide is a considerable number of public spaces, such as cafes and bars, to work from. Research shows “about half of highly creative individuals and about 40% of highly qualified individuals work on their customers’ premises” (33). This would lead one to believe that office space is only necessary for about half of the creative industry in Munich.
But where does subculture have room to grow?
The problem is hard to define from the research presented in “The Role of Creativity in Munich’s Economy.” Can it really just be a result of poor housing options? Research showed “Munich ranks particularly highly with regard to its cultural and educational offerings, shopping facilities, cafes and restaurants, parks, open spaces and system of local public transport” but “low grades were given for the city’s high cost of living and the availability of housing” (37). For all the positive, community building offerings Munich has available, housing and living costs remain the biggest complaints.
The high cost of living doesn’t just limit housing – it creates a division of class. The research admits that in Munich, “even where a subculture does exist, it is criticized for being elitist and highly restrictive in its acceptance of newcomers” (38). The international tolerance that Munich showcases doesn’t necessarily translate into warm acceptance. Foreigners living in Munich “said they sometimes missed a genuinely warm welcome” into the city. What’s missing is community amongst artists. Tolerance and acceptance are not the same things. In order for Munich to grow as a creative hotspot, the people living here need to welcome it.
In the meantime, transforming underused buildings into affordable housing and studios is a start that will draw in newcomers. Providing spaces for art and technology start-ups to flourish has to be a priority for Munich if a creative subculture is going to exist.
About the Author(s)
Juan Tejeda is the Managing Director of digital business design agency Brains & Hearts (www.brainsandhearts.de). A forward-thinking designer and strategist, he specializes in concept and business development.