Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Framework conditions for cultural planning: the Human Matrix by Hatto Fischer

The Human Matrix constitutes the methodological aspect of the Study on ‘Successful Cultural Planning Strategies’. The study was made by Hatto Fischer within the Interreg III B CADSES European Project HERMES for the City of Volos (2003 - 2007).

Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



1.0 The framework conditions: overcoming cultural still-stands

1.1 Mapping of invisible cities (after Calvino)

1.2 Framework of values and level of discussions – first analysis

1.3 Consensus seeking method with citizen’s participation – towards cultural agenda

1.4 Study of existing cultural plans (Linz, Toronto, ECOC)

2. Sense perception and identity

2.1 Cities seen by children and youth compared to adults, working population, visitors and those who have never heard of the city but image something

2.2 Altering the conditions for imaginative reflections of meanings of places, people and what constitutes an inspirational life style

2.3 Education – formal and informal learning processes

2.4 Public art as orientation before inward investments are made – by taking culture into consideration when investments are made e.g. Cardiff Port – public art reflects identification possibilities with place

3. Lessons of Materials

3.1 Lessons of materials show already what are cultural resources

3.2 By energizing people, inspiration becomes creativity by letting something meaningful become an answer to open questions

3.3 The problems of over consumption and commercialization are overcome by knowing how to use materials and culture

3.4 Cultural Agenda 21 stands for cultural sustainability

4. Le vecu – lived through experiences

4.1 Experiences

4.2 Cultural Impact Studies requirements

4.3 What people can sustain over time – a measure as to what has future

4.4 Cultural changes begin by questioning abuse of power

5. Cultural landscapes

5.1 Cultural landscape

5.2 Setting the ration between natural environments or wild places and

man-built or urbanized spaces

5.3 Upholding civic values by NGOs of civil society – access to knowledge (freeing from elite cultures) and information about funding opportunities for cultural projects

5.4 It is a task to preserve cultural landscapes as result of human activities altering natural landscapes

6. Constructed realities and spaces

6.1 Architecture as unity of perception (Kant)

6.2 Visions and spaces

6.3 Dialectic between old and new – aesthetical guidelines and proper use of materials

6.4 Public Truth and Public Space: dimensions of a city shaped and burdened by demands for private spaces

7. Orientation – living, traveling and strangers coming into town

7.1 Streets (known, unknown)

7.2 Famous names and historical memory in places

7.3 Select traffic categories to separate heavy transport from pedestrians Arteries thick and thin – the route of things and persons – model of Chicago

7.4 Strangers coming into town – a measure of tasks ahead to realize a just society

8. Agora – Surrealists and the Monument

8.1 Squares and places

8.2 Breathing spots

8.3 Encounters at certain places: Time Square

8.4 Interfaces within the city: urbanity

9. Cultural Infrastructures

9.1 Cultural infrastructures

9.2 Cultural services next to other kinds of social and administrative services for transport, communication, waste management, water, energy and food supply

9.3 City and the Media: urban screens and other forms of communication

9.4 Visible and invisible infrastructures in order to keep the city together

10. Topology of culture

10.1 Meeting places (inside / outdoors;

formal / informal) - places where culture can be experienced

10.2 Changes of meaning to allow for new interplay e.g. Glasgow conversion of church into social and cultural place

10.3 From informal to formal means and commercialization of public spaces being re-privatized

10.4 Attain non commercial meeting places

11. Sport and Leisure: physical extension of movements and exercises

11.1 Sport venues

11.2 Cultural events e.g. Cultural Olympiade during Olympic Games

11.3 Cultural routes to further pleasure in movements and exercises – competition in the arts e.g. Delphic Games


Sport and Culture – reconcilable differences: hooligism versus mass enjoyment

12. Culture and Civilization

12.1 Cultural venues

12.2 Planning for museums and cultural centers as flagships

12.3 Avoid drains upon cultural resources by preferring small over larger venues

12.4 From existing cultural venues to the creation of new spaces

13. Local identity and local development - civil society and values

13.1 Culture and local development

13.2 Planning events, conferences, festivals by using cultural calendar as tool for coordination and cooperation

13.3 Time dimension (past, present and future)

13.4 Reformulate time rhythm of city life linked to local environment and global developments

14. Economy and Culture

14.1 Creative Industries

14.2 Intangible economy

14.3 Arts management and experts

14.4 Responsiveness to cultural needs

15. Globalization

15.1 Networks

15.2 Creating cultural initiatives and networks

15.3 Mobility of artists, circulation of art works and intercultural dialogue

15.4 Promotion of qualitative networks based on values of civil society

16. Cultural links to other cities

16.1 Culture of other cities

16.2 How to integrate other cities in own urban space

16.3 Open method of cultural co-operation and twinning

16.4 Global discussion about urban based cultural policy

17. City and Region

17.1 Regional to global context

17.2 Spatial planning

17.3 Land use

17.4 Urban planning: how to take culture and cultural planning into consideration

18. Cultural heritage

18.1 Cultural stock: collections, treasures, points of attraction

18.2 Upgrading accessibilities to cultural references

18.3 Building city museum to upgrade memory of the city

18.4 Cultural initiatives and cultural adaptation

19. Cultural investments

19.1 Investments in the arts and culture as context for investments

19.2 Developing through culture different relationships and partnerships

19.3 Foundations, private sponsors,

civil initiatives: strengthening supportive framework

19.4 Cultural governance and intercultural diaologue


The human matrix departs from something Adorno called ‘cultural prisms’: a way to perceive things. Given that any cultural planning strategy will have to resort to focal points on the cultural map, in order to draw the line between at least two if not three points when designing guidelines, it makes sense to explore some of these points. For what is a cultural venue for a child compared to the tourist when looking at the opera house beside the sea? Always we tend to forget in our timeless world how quickly perceptions change with age, experience and tasks ahead. Equally amazing is man’s gift to attempt to link architecture with landscapes in order to alter the key orientation points. Thus while new things stand out, others fade in the background till they are nearly forgotten or even lost completely in history rushing simply on. But then what is this fleeting moment of the present which is so eagerly strived for and then stepped in before too late to become an unforgettable experience? A child will have difficulties to imagine that, an adult who has lost the ability to imagine freely things will by comparison not even know this loss. It may be drawn out in future by another architect and city planner when some walls are knocked down again to make free the glance for the building left standing behind, in the shadow of the new tower, but such attempts are ill fated if they do not fit into the cultural pattern which can grip a city and forces to show a profile it does not necessarily want but still by necessity shows that face and not another. For want of another word, these are global pressures. When, for example, container traffic started, the entire culture of a port city like Genoa was revamped. No longer work gangs went up the plank to unload a cargo ship by carrying one after the another the heavy sacks on their shoulders, but one man winks to the crane operator to lift from the ship the next container. And from this depletion of culturally defined work gangs which made up the diversity of the port, there came another phenomenon, for hardly had the new people left their work, then in the street they would be dressed as neutral as everyone else. Sartre made the point if you see a chimney sweeper coming down the street, you would recognize immediately how he intends to exist in society. Today it is rarely possible to know anymore from the outer attire what a person intends to do. Of course, there are some categories which are still recognizable, or at least that is the hope, as in the case of the mailman with his bag around the shoulders, but then there is the funny story of the police guarding a minister’s house found a postman smoking his cigarette nearby to be so suspicious that they took him down to the police station for further inquiries. He could not convince them that he was just the mailman. The suspicion due to heightened security concerns make it plausible that someone gets caught in the net of suspicion while the real fishes escape nevertheless. That is because this new enemy otherwise called terrorist is invisible. And since not pleasant to imagine what they look like replacements are found in made out and supposing enemies; that is when the picture or image replaces the true imaginative process by which creativity is kept alive and understanding of others still based on human empathy. If cities risk to loose that, then the human matrix is an attempt to propose cultural planning strategies should be thought of as possible action lines either vertically or horizontally or whatever pattern may be thought of as being useful for a city to finance a specific cultural action aiming to link these points. The human matrix works by being put to practical use and can be measured in terms of experiences made while results signify themselves that the human matrix is the best way to understand the culture of the city.

Within the overall cultural planning procedures such a matrix may be adopted if the following is recognized:

1. Mapping of cultural resources with people themselves constituting the main resource

2. Cultural planning as a new approach to people and their aspirations

How to combine resources for the best possible outcome so that culture comes into dialogue with people in search of a continuity in life done best by becoming consistent over time. Creativity is evoked by time horizons becoming a firmament of values for orientation purposes.

2.1 Implementation of a cultural way of sharing ideas, resources and results

Since there is not just one idea or one possibility to realize a concept in reality. There is always a tension between the idea and the action aiming to fulfill that idea. That tension has to be used and made fruitful.

Consequently culture is about mediating between concept and reality. Out of the tension culture begins to made understandable what works, what not given the city redesigning itself constantly. This can be best noted on how the relationship between private and public spaces alters and how people make use of the public spaces provided by the city but also which they assume to be a common access point to their way of living together. That goes beyond a wish and takes on a practical character by converting a parking lot into a park or sculptures ensuring this land will not be used for private purposes.

Safeguarding and developing at the same time a local place is an attempt to alter the structures which govern society in general and to make through immediate demands a more realistic environment which is conducive to local development. As such culture can ensure that this mediation process does not allow the experts to ignore the opinions of the citizens or global players outmanoever the local forces. Culture is about enriching an open ended communication process in search of livable solutions while attentive to new ideas not tested as of yet.

This is why Solshenitzyn would say in the arts there is no notion of progress; rather an attempt by an artist to draw the human figure or a writer sitting down to let a novel unfold are both conditional to coming as close as possible to reality. This is why a poet can claim immediately after having written a poem that this one is made while another poem needs much more work to be anything but complete.

It is a strange thing to see cities and the forces which dominate them such as public relations and advertisement companies leave out or neglect the mediation process facilitated by a living culture. While someone can give time for experiences to be made without creating panic another person would not have the patience and demand immediate results. That is why the mediation process, time wise, can elongate the search for a valid conclusion. This is especially needed if not a truthful account is available as to what took place in reality until now.

People search always for a way out of the impossible while they are rarely satisfied with what possibilities are given. This dissatisfaction with what has been reached can become a good motive to go on; it can also be something breaking apart relationships and leave behind negative feelings about human beings and their limitations when it comes to living and working together. At all times, it means implementation of a cultural plan has to be guided by realistic attitudes, even when the process demands more than mere compromises.

As to the role of the arts, they demand no compromises are made and that only the best is strived for. That is why coming to terms with artists and the demands upon the arts by the culture people live in can become at times highly volatile and therefore a mere expression of uncompromising natures. That is good for it means taking a stand on key issues will guide everyone towards letting the process work through before drawing any conclusions about this or that outcome.

Such high level of artistic and cultural quality based on "not everything goes' is all the more of importance when it comes to evaluating a cultural program whether or not it has managed to alter the image of the city or not. (see here the evaluation of the Final Report by Linz '09 when looking back at what it achieved during that one specific year when European Capital of Culture for the programme confused the identity question of the city itself with the selling or cultural marketing of a successful image: http://poieinkaiprattein.org/europe/european-cultural-capital-cities/linz-2009/)

Sometimes things are forgotten in a short term but in the long run they resurface and are remembered as something valid people stood for back then and which does still retain substance today in the form of buildings left behind or else in what contemporary artistic expressions help restore from the past in a new context of self understanding. Here life goes on but changed with old conditions reminding what was possible back then and which has a place in today’s world under new and changed terms.

For instance, a woman living alone in a palace built during the sixteenth century has another degree of independence compared to a woman of the twenty-first century facing life alone, but not privileged enough compared to the first one who is able to solicit the arts and cultural heritage to ascertain her claim about beauty and love for life being stronger than all other negative forces. This too does sustain life in another way. And it is done by means of a very careful, sensitive implementation process in order to let historical buildings recover from years, if not centuries of sickness as is the case with another restoration project of hers: a Renaissance castle misused over 200 years or more as a prison. According to her, the plans for re-using such a castle after restoration have to adapt to that prime condition of recovery from years of sickness. There is no way around that.

Therefore, a Human Matrix is a good tool to consider the implementation of cultural planning as a careful deliberation process. Things need to be done but without rushing ahead to find new uses before such a building or a place or the entire city had a chance to recover from the past. This applies as well to a city like Athens which is often burdened by a falsely understood legacy of the past while neglecting the most recent past.

2.2 Cultural orientation as recommendations for the future and how to resolve creative tensions by directing these energies towards new processes and results

Cultural planning begins by setting constraints. Not everything is allowed. That alone can make people become creative in their use of cultural resources. By reading a book, they find spaces in time and places to which they wish to travel to or else by which they reflect upon their self understanding.

There is a need to learn how to use culture, but not abuse it. This was one key objective of CIED. Cultural planning should take its cue from that and revolve around a learning hypothesis as to what is good practice when it comes to using cultural resources.

It is inconceivable to implement a cultural plan without knowing what investments in culture are needed in order not merely to sustain economic and social development by maintaining cohesion and a high quality of human interactions based on values, but also to bring further cultural dialogue into the midst of everybody’s life.

3. Dipping into the tool box – example of how to use the human matrix

Cultural planning entails setting constraints to stipulate what needs to be taken into consideration prior to granting a building permission and making possible a new land use in the city. Given limited resources, funds can be provided and investments can be made by connecting specific fields. This will entail a transition from material to immaterial and vice versa from cultural to physical qualities.

For example, the meaning people give to a meeting place can be enhanced by adding benches. However, these public spaces can be altered by these benches being too formal. In other words, often local people would prefer simplier solutions and not the most expensive ones. They would like to keep things close to being an informal setting to guarantee freedom to change if so needed or wanted.

As in all cases it is the right mix with maximum flexibility to local use which shall enhance the creation of cultural identities. Once in the making, as expressed through various forms (dance, music, puppet shows, story telling etc.), it can prove by itself that a successful cultural planning policy is about setting the right framework conditions. The rest the people can do by themselves. Above all, if both quality and identity of place is to be retained as perceived and desired by the local people, then commercial interests and more so global take overs of local places must be kept in check.

To give an example when three fields are connected by stipulating a new museum must take into consideration near-by open spaces, then location and type of building go together to improve upon the overall morphology and identity of the city. Nothing is wasted while the solution offered both in terms of design and content fits like a glove the local given. For example, funds can be allocated in such a way that only fields 6,7 and 8 are brought together to form what Martin Jay calls a 'force field': special attention and resources provided will bring about energy to do something in combination of all three considerations.

6. Constructed realities and spaces

6.1 Architecture

6.2 Visions and spaces

6.3 Dialectic between old and new – aesthetical guidelines and proper use of materials

6.4 Public Truth and Public Space: dimensions and spaces of a city shaped and burdened by demands for private spaces

7. Orientation Going about and finding the way – all the way to journeys and strangers coming into town

7.1 Streets (known, unknown)

7.2 Names and historical memory

7.3 Select traffic categories to separate heavy transport from pedestrians – the route of things and persons - model of Chicago

7.4 Strangers coming into town -  a measure of tasks ahead to realize the just society

8. Agora – Surrealists and the Monument

8.1 Squares and places

8.2 Breathing spots

8.3 Encounters at certain places: Time Square

8.4 Interfaces within the city: urbanity


To demonstrate the usefulness of the matrix, the following text taken from the website of the Guggenheim Museum illustrates how linkages are made by an architect considering location and what type of building will suit the art to be exhibited inside the building he designs. Important is that Frank Lloyd Wright places importance on the proximity to nature in an overcrowded city like New York and therefore designs the building to become a breathing spot for the arts.

Guggenheim Museum in New York

Official text on the website about the building:

"In June 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright received a letter from Hilla Rebay, the art advisor to Solomon R. Guggenheim, asking the architect to design a new building to house Guggenheim's four-year-old Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The project evolved into a complex struggle pitting the architect against his clients, city officials, the art world, and public opinion. Both Guggenheim and Wright would die before the building's 1959 completion. The resultant achievement, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, testifies not only to Wright's architectural genius, but to the adventurous spirit that characterized its founders.
Wright made no secret of his disenchantment with Guggenheim's choice of New York for his museum: "I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum," Wright wrote in 1949 to Arthur Holden, "but we will have to try New York." To Wright, the city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit.
Still, he proceeded with his client's wishes, considering locations on 36th Street, 54th Street, and Park Avenue (all in Manhattan), as well as in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, before settling on the present site on Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets. Its proximity to Central Park was key; as close to nature as one gets in New York, the park afforded relief from the noise and congestion of the city.
Nature not only provided the museum with a respite from New York's distractions but also leant it inspiration. The Guggenheim Museum is an embodiment of Wright's attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture. His inverted ziggurat (a stepped or winding pyramidal temple of Babylonian origin) dispensed with the conventional approach to museum design, which led visitors through a series of interconnected rooms and forced them to retrace their steps when exiting. Instead, Wright whisked people to the top of the building via elevator, proceeding downward at a leisurely pace on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp. The galleries were divided like the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet interdependent sections. The open rotunda afforded viewers the unique possibility of seeing several bays of work on different levels simultaneously. The spiral design recalled a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another.
Even as it embraced nature, Wright's design put his unique stamp on Modernist Architecture's rigid geometry. The building is a symphony of triangles, ovals, arcs, circles, and squares. Forms echo one another throughout: oval-shaped columns, for example, reiterate the geometry of the fountain and the stairwell of the Thannhauser Building. Circularity is the leitmotif, from the rotunda to the inlaid design of the terrazzo floors.
The meticulous vision took decades to be fulfilled. Originally, the large rotunda was to be accompanied by a small rotunda and a tower. The small rotunda (or monitor building, as Wright called it) was intended to house apartments for Rebay and Guggenheim but instead became offices and miscellaneous storage space. In 1965, the second floor of the building was renovated to display the museum's growing permanent collection, and with the restoration of the museum in 1990–92, it was turned over entirely to exhibition space and rechristened the Thannhauser Building in honor of one of the most important bequests to the museum.
Wright's original plan for the tower—artists' studios and apartments—went unrealized, largely for financial reasons. As part of the restoration, a 1968 office/art-storage annex (designed by Wright's son-in-law William Wesley Peters) was replaced by the current structure, designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates, Architects. This tower provides four additional exhibition galleries and, some thirty-five years after the initiation of construction, completed Wright's concept for the museum. In 2001, the Sackler Center for Arts Education opened to the public. Located just below the rotunda, this 8,200-square-feet education facility includes the Peter B. Lewis Theater, part of Frank Lloyd Wright's original architectural design for the building.
Some people, especially artists, criticized Wright for creating a museum environment that might overpower the art inside. "On the contrary," he wrote, "it was to make the building and the painting an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never existed in the World of Art before." In conquering the static regularity of geometric design and combining it with the plasticity of nature, Wright produced a vibrant building whose architecture is as refreshing now as it was 40 years ago. The Guggenheim is arguably Wright's most eloquent presentation and certainly the most important building of his late career.

—Matthew Drutt


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