Hover over a cultural building!
Cultural Infrastructure is a term being used by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Mayor of London to describe all of London’s cultural assets: music venues, art galleries, museums, theatres, and much more. Cultural Infrastructures are "buildings, structures and spaces where culture is consumed and produced".
The cultural and creative industries are worth £91.8 billion to the UK economy - more than the automotive, life sciences, aerospace and oil and gas industries combined. London recognises the value of its cultural buildings, heritage and its creative people to the success of its economy and social activity. As such, the Cultural Infrastructure Plan is a game-changing initiative set out in March 2019 by the GLA to “protect and grow London’s cultural facilities”.
One of the key breakthroughs of the initiative was the Cultural Infrastructure Map. The map provides openly available data about all cultural infrastructure in London and is helpful to policymakers, urban planners and architects, and it also allows researchers like me to investigate questions about London’s culture. I am using data from the map to power this visualization.
I am interested in researching the economic and social value of culture to London’s economy. For this visualization, we will scroll through eight different cultural and creative clusters in London and compare how the average Airbnb price listing per night compares to the rest of the Borough. I am using the price of Airbnb listings as a proxy for economic value; however, one may also include property price data from the Land Registry, consumer data from retail stores, or transport data from TfL. Elsewhere, I have used social media data to research the social value of cultural events in London.
My mission is to champion culture in cities by using data science and visualization, machine learning and computer vision, urban economics and social media analytics. Through my research, I hope to make the case for continued and sustained investment into the cultural and creative industries by arguing that cultural infrastructure feeds into the underlying value of our economy and societies. The concept of “value” is an increasingly contested term in economics, therefore, in the future it is important to argue the case for culture and creativity not only with respects to price but also with respects to social cohesion, happiness, curiosity and innovation.
This project has been made by Vishal Kumar, a Cultural Data Scientist at The Bartlett’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at UCL who researches the economic and social value of culture in cities. Vishal is an Associate at Futurecity and a data science consultant for Waltham Forest Council for the London Borough of Culture programme.
This is version 1 of the project and is currently only suitable for desktop. I will be updating the page regularly and all releases will be made public on social media @vishalkumar.london. Stay tuned!
Fitzrovia was a notable artistic and bohemian centre from a period dating roughly from the mid-1920s until the present day and was once home to such writers as Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Rimbaud. Now it is characterised by its mixed-use of residential, business, retail, education and healthcare, with no single activity dominating. The average Airbnb price in Fitzrovia in 2019 is £188 a night, a 5.6% increase from the year before and 38% higher than the rest of the borough of Camden. There are 28 commercial galleries, one of the most densely populated in London, and the area is also well known for a wide variety of food and restaurants, especially on Charlotte Street.
Mayfair is one of the most affluent areas of London. Most of the largest and most famous commercial galleries have traditionally been based in Mayfair. In total, there are 66 commercial galleries, more than any district in London. Mayfair is also home to some of the most exclusive restaurants, hotels and members clubs in London, as well as being a district for luxury and fashion. The average Airbnb price in Mayfair is £366 a night, the highest in London, a 35% increase from the last year and 80% higher than the rest of the borough of Westminster.
Soho is London's entertainment district & Covent Garden is a shopping and tourist site, at the intersection of the two we have one of the most vibrant places for music venues, theatres and film, nightclubs and restaurants. You can see this by the sea of green and yellow dots - hover over them to get more detail! It’s one of my most favourite parts of London and is packed with activity. It’s hard to tell what exactly is driving value here, but all sheer density of cultural activity makes it one of the most expensive places to get an Airbnb, The average Airbnb price in Soho & Covent Garden in 2019 is £247 a night, a 16% increase from the year before and 21% higher than the rest of the borough of Westminster.
South Kensington & Gloucester Road is a cultural hub because it is home to the famous V&A Museum, Science Museum, National History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Art and the Royal College of Music, as well as, being close to Hyde Park and Knightsbridge. Like Mayfair, South Ken is also one of the most affluent areas of London. The average Airbnb price in South Ken & Gloucester Road in 2019 is £268 a night, an 14% increase from the year before and 32% higher than the rest of the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The cultural infrastructure is not densely packed but it certainly holds substantial weight.
Shoreditch is a cool part of London. If you’re visiting London you should definitely come here! In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Shoreditch was a centre of entertainment to rival the West End and boasted many theatres and music halls. Before that, it was home to the textile and furniture industry in the 17th century, however, these declined. Now it thrives off its variety of cultural activities, as you can see by the number of different coloured dots. The average Airbnb price in Shoreditch in 2019 is £133 a night, a 9% increase from the year before and a whopping 48% higher than the rest of the boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. You can clearly see a dense clustering of high Airbnb listings around the cultural infrastructure.
The area from Southbank to London Bridge is listed as a specialist cluster zone for Art, Culture and Entertainment in the New London Plan. The South Bank is already significant arts and entertainment district. It has the London Eye, The Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Hayward Gallery, The Royal National Theatre, London IMAX super cinema and The Tate Modern. Soon the Illuminated River project will be taking place which will light up all the bridges on the Thames! The average Airbnb price in 2019 is £182 a night, an 25% increase from the year before and 77% higher than the rest of the borough of Southwark. There's definitely a massive cultural premium here, but this is also largely driven because it's near the river.
Deptford is up and coming, mainly for its music scene. Creekside, a regeneration area beside Deptford Creek, is used for educational and artistic purposes, such as the Laban Dance Centre, and the Art in Perpetuity Trust (APT) gallery and studio space. A record label, Deptford Fun City Records set up in the late 1970s as an outlet for Deptford bands, and Steam Down a jazz collective also perform there. It’s also very close to Greenwich. Given the variety of culture, the Airbnb prices here are relatively cheap. The average Airbnb price in Deptford in 2019 is £66 a night, an 0% increase from the year before and only 1% higher than the rest of the borough of Lewisham. You can really get your money’s worth hanging around here!
Dalston is known for music, events and its nightlife. You can see this by all of the green dots! Its biggest festival to date began in 2015, Dalston Music Festival. Centred on Gillett Square and 8 clubs in the surrounding area, it was founded by Andrew Bunsell of Dalston Studios. Much like Deptford, Dalston and Hackney does not have many Airbnb rentals with daily prices above £200. However, it is an area of London is a place with a lot of galleries. The average Airbnb price in Dalston is £86 a night, an 4% increase from the year before and 2% below than the rest of the borough of Hackney. Again, another reasonable place to stay in London, but the area has been heavily criticised for gentrification.
Does Cultural Infrastructure affect Airbnb prices? I would say that this question is still largely unanswered by this data visualization and open to further investigation. However, there are several instances where Airbnb prices in some cultural and creative clusters in London are certainly much higher than the rest of the Borough; this seem most profound for cultural clusters in zone 1. A better question would be “to what extent does cultural infrastructure affect Airbnb prices”. In the future, I would love to incorporate more functionality into this map and include an enriched set of data.
Please do let me know your feedback and thoughts about this map and please do circulate via social media. At the moment, this map is only optimised for viewing on a desktop device. If you would like to make a feature request, please get in touch with me via email. Thank you!