About Us

The Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) is an independent, international association committed to improving the quality of urban life through the contribution of the arts, culture and creative industries. The network fosters collaboration and knowledge-sharing among those responsible for creative and cultural districts, quarters and clusters in widely diverse contexts, providing rich and rewarding opportunities for cross fertilization and exchange. The forum engages leaders and opinion formers in culture and in urban development through convenings, research and collaboration in order to inform global, local and sectoral agendas.

Cities are changing at an incredible pace. Arts and culture are increasingly acknowledged for their vital role in creating thriving urban centres.

The Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) brings together diverse leaders in culture and urban development and provides a unique space for new ideas, exchange and collaboration to flourish.

Successful cultural districts can be transformative. Urban areas which combine a rich cultural life with compelling public spaces and architecture attract investment, knowledge workers and tourists; build community and social capital; and reveal a distinctive local identity. Billions of dollars are being committed to cultural infrastructure globally. But they are difficult to get right.

Districts with concentrations of cultural activity – for example theatre districts – have existed for hundreds of years. Some just happened organically and slowly over decades; others like London’s Albertopolis, were part of ambitious urban plans. In recent years, billions of dollars have been invested by governments from Beijing to Bogota in creating new ones. Meanwhile, elsewhere, from Berlin to Brooklyn, many dense cultural clusters have grown spontaneously in response to changing patterns of urban life and the needs of artists. And now people are concerned about how to retain the vitality and relevance of these distinctive areas as the economic and social circumstances that gave birth to them change. In all these cases people are concerned with creating and maintaining the conditions in which culture and creativity thrive and make their fullest contribution to urban life.

GCDN was therefore created to strengthen the links between the people responsible for managing and planning cultural districts, quarters or clusters around the world so they can learn from one another, identify common agendas and develop partnerships. A successful cultural district is one that animates the city or region that it serves. The network is intended to be a forum in which the conditions for success can be explored

Initiated in 2013 by AEA Consulting, GCDN is the only international forum dedicated to these concerns. Areas of focus include:

  • Strategic planning and the metrics of success
  • The responsibilities of economic and social impact
  • Technology and innovation
  • Content and programming partnerships
  • Branding and identity
  • Recruitment and professional development
  • Tourism, education and community engagement
  • Animation of public spaces and strategies for public programming
  • What planned districts can learn from naturally occurring ones
  • The risks of success
  • Role of institutional anchors
  • Sustainability – financial and environmental
  • Governance, advocacy and operating models
  • Investment – public and private
  • The relationship to smart cities, BIDs and other urban strategies

Members identify common agendas, develop partnerships and share research and intelligence with their peers, government, industry and academia. Together, they inform better practice and policy for cultural districts and contribute to more liveable cities of the future.

GCDN annual meetings have been held in: BarcelonaBrooklyn, Dallas, DubaiLondon, Montreal, and Providence. The next convening will be in Singapore, August 2019.