Coworking Space– from Renaissance Bottegas to WorkVille in NYC

June 6th, 2016

In the Harvard Business Review, Piero Formica discusses the similarities between the innovative coworking spaces in 15th-century Italy and those that have popped up the past few years in corporations that treasure creativity, such as Google’s “Campus” in London, NextSpace in California, or WorkVille in New York City, where coworking spaces can be rented by the month, day or even hour. Bottegas (“workshops”) in 15th century Florence were used by master artists to teach new artists. The result was the nurturing of talent, with new techniques, artistic forms, and aesthetic and expressive ideas. The “Master” was at the center, but creativity was at the core.

One of the most successful of the Renaissance bottegas was that of Andrea del Verrocchio, a sculptor, painter, and goldsmith. His pupils did not follow his work in a linear fashion, but in a creative one, resulting in artists as varied as Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, and Domenico Ghirlandaio. These were artists interested in perfecting techniques to be used in frescoes commissioned by the Pope for the Sistine Chapel; inventors who had ideas for flying machines and bicycles; and master goldsmiths.

The major contributions of the Renaissance workshops, which brought together people with ideas, regardless of what form those ideas took, were turning ideas into actions, fostering dialogues, and facilitating the convergence of art and science. Today’s workplaces are also interested in turning ideas into actions. Often, the challenge is figuring out what a new idea can be used to and how it can be used to make a profit. By fostering dialogue or holding brainstorming conversations, engineers and artists, craftsmen and draftsmen can create something the world didn’t know it needed but now everyone is desperate for.

WorkVille, in New York City, is a coworking space a Renaissance master would approve of. Centrally located by Times Square, near to major transportation hubs, on the 21st floor of a luxury office building, is a sun drenched space, with move-in ready offices, open desks, space to spread out to work in or take meetings, with a cafe, lounge area, and even outdoor terraces for inspiration. The space is not the only inspiration: the community of start-ups and small businesses creates that conversation and dialogue necessary for innovation. From the Renaissance to modern times, a coworking space that allows flexibility in thought is imperative.

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