Sense of place on the periphery: Exploring the spatial practices of the creative class in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Emannuel Costa
  • Nicholas Lynch
Keywords: Sense of place, Spatial practices, Creative class, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador


Urban and regional spaces in the early 21st century have been dramatically reshaped by economic performances linked to innovation, knowledge and creativity. Professionals in these sectors, often referred to as the “Creative Class”, are the focus of growing scholarship across the social sciences. Urban geographers, in particular have scrutinized this complex labour category and increasingly question the core spatialities of the concept, including raising awareness of the creative class in rural and peripheral spaces. In this paper, we explore the spatial practices carried out by the creative class in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador—an important yet peripheral urban hub in Atlantic Canada. Drawing upon the findings of interviews with local stakeholders from municipal government; innovation, knowledge and creative industries; and the R&D sector, our analysis points to the existence of a complex and creative “sense of place” that simultaneously envisions a favourable environment for innovation and creativity but that also consistently impedes talent attraction (and retention) from outside the province. Given this context, we highlight two central issues: (i) the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean as an economic and cultural determinant of a “sense of place”; and (ii) the appropriation of this “sense of place” as a spatial practice of the local creative class fed by social and symbolic distinction.