A Creative Commons Platform for Citizen Collaborators (Creative Innovative Cities: Part Six)

Creativity takes many forms and to solve pressing challenges facing our communities will require the collective creativity of people across many professions. This post is part of an ongoing series investigating creativity and innovation in cities.

A 'Creative Commons'

Our ‘Creative Commons’ prototype is an online platform that works in tandem with a local planning system. Working together within an integrated planning strategy, the ‘Creative Commons’ enables and incentivizes creatives to contribute to the community. The ‘Creative Commons’ challenges the assumptions and limitations of traditional development that tend to have...

  • A lot of investment
  • A lengthy construction time
  • Extensive regulations
  • Is unaffordable to many
  • Lacks a community feeling
  • Has little investment in space for people to socialize
  • Is repetitive/monotonous/has a lack of diversity
  • Has fixed unit types

Starting with 'What If?...'

Taking inspiration from Duncan Wardle, the former Head of Innovation and Creativity at The Walt Disney Company (see more on Wardle in our previous article here), we were motivated to ask a simple ‘what if’ question to imagine new possibilities.

‘What if….’ the units in a development were not fixed?...

Imagine if...

  • Residents could design their own units.


  • the proposal will have to follow a granular model as each unit will be constructed at its own pace. 
  • they will need a framework so that they can navigate the construction process.
  • a framework will have to be developed in partnership with the community as a whole in order to remain democratic. 
  • by breaking one preconception (that units in a development are fixed) other norms are challenged - resulting in a cascading effect.
  • the neighbourhood is collectively owned by members of the local community. (Traditionally these areas provided a common area to bring livestock and were referred to as commons.)
"What if...we call it a ‘Creative Commons’?”

The 'Creative Commons' Within a Supportive Planning Framework

The 'Creative Commons' approach is grounded in research and case studies from around the world from creative and innovative cities. To read more see:

Article: Unlocking the Creative Potential of Urban Professionals: Creative Innovative Cities (Part One)

Article: The Agile City: Creative Innovative Cities (Part Two)

Article: Creative Cities Around the World: Creative Innovative Cities (Part Three)

Article: Making Massive Small Change: Creative Innovative Cities (Part Four)

Article: Innovation in Action: Creative Innovative Cities (Part Five)

In order to enable creativity there needs to be a balance between freedom and guidance. This helps maintain a considerate and democratic community as well as providing a tried and tested formula which inspires confidence and simplifies the complex process of construction. This is especially true for those that have little experience in the technical aspects of construction. A balance between an under-constrained and over-constrained system promotes diversity and cohesion creating environments that function as well as inspire. The key is trust on both ends. Citizens have to demonstrate a level of confidence in their local government and government has to have faith in their citizens allowing them the freedom to experiment and offering them a right to build.

Figure 1: Degree of Constraint in the System (Making Massive Small Change, p. 104)

An empowering framework allows for flexibility whilst working towards a joint vision. The framework should be informed by many of the traditional aspects of architectural design such as context, materiality, sustainability, utilities, social space, culture, transport, cost and regulation. In addition, there are several key considerations specific to a self build model such as the construction skills of the community, level of complexity, collaboration and engagement, business strategy, growth, guidance from professionals and policy.

Elements of a supportive framework could include...

  • standardization of certain components
  • utility zones rather than fixed cores which allow for flexibility
  • a pre-constructed plinth to offer initial stability and deal with the issue of laying multiple foundations
  • a limit of four stories so that it relates to its context, the implementation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in order to fund social development and maintenance of the district
  • waste disposal and transportation and the development of the rail line creating a connection between the district and the central train station.

Engineering a 'Creative Commons' Platform

In order to develop a cohesive granular community, there is not only a need for a physical framework but also a virtual one. Humanity has communicated and interacted through online platforms for the better part of a century, and now more than ever as a result of the recent pandemic. It has also been the basis for countless grassroots movements around the globe including recent protests and climate change awareness. It highlights the capabilities and possibilities of collaboration and handling of complex data online. The research, design, and conditions of this moment in history have informed and inspired a strategy which takes advantage of the capabilities of an online platform. 

The ‘Creative Commons’ acts as a powerful tool for collating open source information and coordination. These benefit the creative community, with the enhanced communication between actors being the catalyst for a grassroots movement. The platform allows visitors to explore the community as well as branding the city's 'Creative Commons' as a valuable destination. At its core, the 'Creative Commons' is a platform for collaboration and planning, a digital playground to explore ideas, proposals, organizing events and promoting members of the creative community

As the community is granular and develops over time, there is a need for light oversight. This is expressed through the ‘Creative Commons’ platform, in a single architectural isometric for the chosen community that is consistently updated over time by a professional who remains in communication with the community. This offers transparency and guidance.

The Perth, Scotland 'Creative Commons' Isometric

The Creative Commons Navigator

The Creative Commons Navigator (CC Navigator) offers a platform for open source construction including detailed drawings and plans for residential and commercial units developed on site by members of the community. This helps inspire further self build development and communal efficiency. The portal also allows for community engagement and creative expression through a number of locations which can be explored through this website. The platform allows any individual the opportunity to submit a proposal for temporary interventions and events such as art works, gatherings, street markets, seminars, courses, workshops, festivals...the possibilities are endless. Below is short video of the platform in action.

To learn more about the 'Creative Commons' platform and how it could help transform a community see here: Perth Creative Commons


  1. [1] Campbell, K. (2018). Making Massive Small Change: Ideas, Tools, Tactics: Building the Urban Society We Want. Chelsea Green Publishing Vermont.

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