Innovative Coworking Spaces: An Old Idea

Over at Harvard Business Review, there is a post reminding us that the supposedly new idea of collaborative spaces is in fact quite old:

Much has been made of these shared workspaces as a brand-new idea, one that barely existed 10 years ago. But the way they function reminds me of a very old idea: the Renaissance “bottega” (workshop) of 15th-century Florence, in which master artists were committed to teaching new artists, talents were nurtured, new techniques were at work, and new artistic forms came to light with artists competing among themselves but also working together.


The Renaissance put knowledge at the heart of value creation, which took place in the workshops of these artisans, craftsmen, and artists. There they met and worked with painters, sculptors, and other artists; architects, mathematicians, engineers, anatomists, and other scientists; and rich merchants who were patrons. All of them gave form and life to Renaissance communities, generating aesthetic and expressive as well as social and economic values. The result was entrepreneurship that conceived revolutionary ways of working, of designing and delivering products and services, and even of seeing the world.

These Renaissance bottegas had three major elements going for them:

  • Turning ideas into actions.
  • Fostering dialogue.
  • Faciliating the convergence of art and science.

Modern-day work spaces could learn a lot from their 15th-century forebearers.