At Nesta we're asking what effect does the physical environment have on our ability to innovate and think creatively?
It affects the way we work, think and interact.
That’s why building environments that encourage creative collaboration has become a central issue for organisations and city planners globally. From the corporate Googleplex to the startup accelerator and the innovation campus, billions are being spent on the innovative work-scapes of the future.
The ‘architecture of innovation’ is not itself anything new. Sixty years ago biologist Jonas Salk claimed his discovery of the polio vaccine only came when he swapped his basement lab for an Italian monastery which eventually became the template for the iconic Louis Kahn-designed Salk Institute. Yet uninspiring architecture can still be great idea generators from MIT’s leaky Building 20 to the garage startups of Silicon Valley.
As new cloisters of creativity are built across the world we're interested in what difference today’s workplace design can make to our ability to innovate for tomorrow.
At this point we have more questions than we have answers:
- Inside the Creativity Engine: Today’s creative workspaces tend to emphasise the importance of bright surroundings, recreation areas, comfortable furniture and an environment that blurs work and play. But beyond changing tastes in décor, what does the evidence – from the ground up and in the scientific research – actually say about design’s ability to help us think outside the proverbial box? And can a highly designed environment still leave enough room for improvisation?
- Building the Hive-Mind: Collision spaces and the water-cooler moment are now part of the vernacular. But can serendipity and spontaneous interaction really be engineered? How can you balance between the open space of collaboration and the quiet time of personal reflection?
- Bringing the Outside In: Wherever we work we can be sure that the best ideas are probably outside our own immediate environment. How do we build an innovation space that has a strong sense of purpose and belonging but also the porous boundaries and external networks necessary for open innovation?
- From Space to Place: How can a single hub of creativity begin to animate a new innovative milieu? How can we design for creativity not just at the level of the building but also for the street and the spaces-in-between through to the neighbourhood, the city and its hinterland?
We are about to commission some original research and will be convening a global seminar later in the year. If you are interested in these issues then we'd love to hear from you.