Value & Power: The social impact of cultural projects

Watch the online conferences focused on social and cultural value specific to the contexts of La Friche, Marseille and Camden, London

Photos : La Friche, Clara Prat.

On the 4th of October 2023, LaboFriche* at La Friche, Marseille Has hosted visitors from London for an evening symposium reflecting on parallel experiences of social value/power in the two cities. The event explored perspectives on social and cultural value specific to the contexts of La Friche, Marseille and Camden, London. The issue and concern of value emerged through collaboration in the Horizon 2020 project T-Factor, which addresses the potential social impacts of temporary urbanism within large scale urban regeneration. The symposium brought together practitioners, academics and policy makers to share knowledge and consider urban values.

Practitioners and publics doing socially engaged forms of practice often struggle to demonstrate the value and potential of practice and face challenges influencing city making processes in meaningful ways. The first session of the Symposium explored the definitions of the value associated to cultural projects and methods of making it tangible. 


The Value│Power symposium emerged from T-Lab 1 conversations concerning the role of arts and culture within the context of temporary urbanism. Recent UK research suggests that temporary art and design interventions, or pop-ups, can lead to unintended consequences, such as accelerated gentrification and a rise in urban vulnerability (Ferreri 2021; Harris 2020). 


The objective of the symposium was to discern the lasting values emanating from art and design practices. Although the generation of cultural and social value through these types of activities is historically established and tacit in many practitioner’s approaches, effectively conveying this value remains challenging. The event hosted at La Friche served as a platform to share insights on the capacity of initiatives in the built environment to cultivate social value. It was split into two sections: the initial, “Value,” investigated the subject of value, while the subsequent, “Power,” probed the potential ramifications of these values. 


The soft power exerted through practice can be difficult to communicate, as such cultural activities are often undervalued and decision makers struggle to know how best to support the generation of social value. The second session of the event was dedicated to talk about how local public authorities, research and practitioners can organize the power relations existing by supporting the emergence of social value and its assessment.