Creative Practises and More-than-Human City Visions

Recently colleagues and I (Wolff, Pässilä, Knutas, Vainio, Lautala & Kantola) had the opportunity to write a book chapter to the Handbook of Smart Cities. We contributed our thoughts on the importance of creative practices and how the smart city visions have developed in this direction.


Urban planning processes have historically been shaped by city visions, such as ‘livable’, ‘sustainable’, or ‘smart’. Such visions evolve according to changing economic circumstances and political ideologies and are driven and supported by new technologies and innovations. Each new urban concept can be seen as a way for a city to differentiate itself against others within an increasingly competitive global economy. Thus, each iteration of the city is propositioned to counter an old, replacing one emphasis with a new. In the chapter, we identify a number of challenges for city design and demonstrate how creative practices may be important as a way of widening participation in design and for building empathy. These approaches might help balance the competing interests of humans, non-humans, and the environment.

Below you can find a clip from our literature review of how the city visions have evolved and then the link to the full book chapter.

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The book chapter is available in SpringerLink and there is a time-locked postprint at LUTPub.

Development of City Visions

Table. 1 Development of city visions from creative & livable cities, to smart cities, to more-than-human cities

Vision Concept Evolving view of stakeholders and their involvement in urban transformation
Creative Attractive to creative people and industries Rarely involve citizens in design (Yang & Peng, 2013)
Livable Safe, secure, prosperous and sustainable Urban indicators are used to quantify livability from multiple perspectives that reflect on inhabitant’s quality of life. City planners redesign based on quantified findings.
Digital, real-time city Highly -instrumented, interconnected and data-driven. ICT and city architects
Smart city, 2010s Smart and livable city through technology, people and institutions. Technology designers, people, institutions.
Smart city, mid-2010s Enriching the previous definition with empowering through better governance and considering environmental sustainability. Empowered, active people and including environment as a stakeholder
Smart, sustainable cities Meeting the needs of current inhabitants without endangering future generations or the environment with ICT. Including environment and future inhabitants as key stakeholders
Hackable Adaptable for rapid and short term change Driven by local knowledge and grassroots initiatives
Playable Interactive and fun Designed by technologists to provide playful experiences for city inhabitants
More-than human An entanglement of animal and plant species, technology and built environment Inclusive also to the needs of non-human inhabitants and the environment


Anthropocentric city design practices can lead to the creation of urban environments that serve human needs over the needs of non-human species and the natural environment. This chapter explores the different ways in which cities are creative and more importantly how creative processes, in the form of arts-based methods, may support the design of more-than-human cities, ones in which a diversity of species are able to co-exist with humans. Arts-based methods support different ways of imagining non-human concerns, bringing varied viewpoints to the fore and revealing tensions. Arts-based methods can also be used to lower barriers for participation, providing engaging and creative ways to interpret data and information that provides evidence from beyond the lived experiences of those involved in city design. Such approaches are also useful for bringing other marginalized voices to design, such as those of children. Two case studies are described that showcase the use of arts-based method for different aspects of urban design.


Wolff, A., Pässilä, A., Knutas, A., Vainio, T., Lautala, J., & Kantola, L. (2021). The Importance of Creative Practices in Designing More-Than-Human Cities. Handbook of Smart Cities. (SpringerLink | Postprint from LUTPub)