GCDN Conversations: Live from Lugano

Jun 2021

On Wednesday, 2 June 2021, we partnered with LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura to hold a half-day virtual event featuring three high-quality discussions about the new realities and challenges for cultural districts and their constituents.

If you have missed the event, recordings of the various panels are now available online. Click on the links below to access the recordings and listen to enriching insights about climate change, the vital role of anchor cultural institutions like LAC in fostering thriving urban cultural economies, and the possibilities of experiential programming!


Are Cultural Districts Failing on Climate Action?

The impact and urgency of the climate crisis has never been more acutely felt, with daily warnings about existential threats – from biodiversity loss to unprecedented levels of global warming. Even those in geographies seemingly less challenged must deal with moral imperatives and pragmatic adjustments that have repercussions on daily life and engrained processes.

Cultural districts, with their strong community connections and focus on stories of place and people, have a potentially significant potential role to play in championing climate justice and in the shift towards more environmentally responsible futures. What are those responsibilities and how should they be met? What accommodations, and how should they be made?

Dr Paul Toyne, Sustainability Leader and Principal at Grimshaw facilitated this conversation with:

  • Bert Determann, Co-Founder, 7 Square Endeavour Rotterdam
  • Helen Kearney, Project Manager, City of London Corp.
  • Sarie Mairs Slee, Head of Partnership, Salford Culture and Place Partnership
Click here to hear how cultural districts are championing innovative ways of responding to the climate crisis.

Lugano: Cultural Ecology of a Swiss City

Over the last decade, the City of Lugano faced the challenge of reviving a consequent area of the historic town, including addressing a major lack of modern arts and cultural venues. To that end, the city unlocked major cultural infrastructure investment, centered around a flagship project: the LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura – which opened in September 2015, after 8 years of construction work and intense debate around the importance of that investment for the city.

The vision behind LAC was to create a state-of-the-art cultural venue and artistic reality with international breadth, as well as to develop a social project to engage and benefit the local community. Since 2015, the Direction of LAC has been successfully implementing this vision in partnership with the city, through high-quality international artistic programming, as well as through the activation of its public spaces, and educational activities to engage the community beyond a core audience.

After five years, LAC is playing a pivotal role in the arts and cultural scene both globally and locally and has become a driver in the design of future cultural investment regionally. How is LAC contributing to rebrand Lugano as an international cultural destination and to activate the regional cultural industry? What is the impact and the footprint of such a project for the region and its community?

Sandra Sain, Journalist at Radiotelevisione Svizzera (RSI) explored these themes in conversation with:

  • Carmelo Rifici, Artistic Director, LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura
  • Luigi Di Corato, Director of Cultural Activities Division, City of Lugano
  • Marco Franciolli, Board Member of PLATEFORME 10 Foundation, Lausanne
  • Michel Gagnon, General Manager of LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura
  • Tobia Bezzola, Director of MASILugano
Click here to find out more about the role and impact of anchor cultural institutions like LAC for its city and communities.

Riding the Experiential Train?

Immersive experiences have been an established part of contemporary popular culture and entertainment for more than two decades. Immersive theatre has also become more common in the wake of productions like Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More – and for science, children’s and history museums, the approach has the potential to make abstract concepts tangible and to convey information in a compellingly memorable way. Exhibitions like the Victoria and Albert Museum’s David Bowie Is…? have managed to generate large attendances, a broad demographic and critical acclaim.

Many museums however have approached the experiential genre approach more cautiously. For art museums the mechanics of immersion have been thought disrespectful of the artist’s intentions. However, even here immersive experiences like the floor-to-ceiling projections of Van Gogh have found an audience – and artists themselves are producing immersive works with wide appeal, such as Random International’s Rain Room.

This panel explores the evolution of the experiential approach and its potential to generate compelling content and new curatorial directions to storytelling that engage broad audiences on which many cultural districts are premised, and explores the changing relationship between this type of approach, cultural institutions and the world of commercial entertainment.

Christos Carras, Executive Director at Onassis Cultural Centre – Athens moderated the panel, consisting of:

  • Geoffrey Marsh, Director, Department of Theatre & Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Meredith O’Shaughnessy, Founder and Creative Director, Meredith Collective
  • Tom Piper, Theatre Designer, Associate Designer with the Royal Shakespeare Company

Click here to hear insights about diverse approaches to experiential programming.

You may also be interested to read a background paper here.