A change is as good as a holiday

It’s no secret that we’re passionate about beautiful space here. Apart from being nice to hang out in, we believe our physical environment has an effect on the way we feel, think and act – and in turn the work that gets done. And we certainly aren’t the only ones. David Kelley, in his foreword to Make Space says, “Space is something to think of as an instrument for innovation and collaboration. Space is a valuable tool that can help you create deep and meaningful collaborations in your work and life.” We couldn’t agree more.

Make Space is based on Stanford University’s d.school and its Environments Collaborative Initiative, which sees a collaboration of students across disciplines and mixes creative and analytical approaches to teach a unique methodology for problem solving. Manipulating space to enhance how people work and play together is a key part of the d.school’s approach, helping to facilitate new interactions between people (and ideas) that wouldn’t necessary meet in a traditional educational setting. It sounds like a bunch of fun really, but it works.

A short history lesson…

In the 1950s Jonas Salk was working on the cure for Polio in a dark basement laboratory in Pittsburg. Progress was slow; he was fed up and feeling stifled. So Salk decided to take a break, heading to Assisi, Italy, where he spent time meandering through its beautiful 13th century monastery. Story has it, it was here that Salk experienced a flood of new insights including the idea that would lead to his development of a Polio vaccine. Crediting this shift in thinking to his change in environment, and impassioned by the experience, the Salk created the non-profit Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, with the help of architect Louis Kahn. The Salk Institute is a scientific research facility that encourages creativity in the scientific process, which has been home to many biological breakthroughs. At its core is a belief in the relationship between physical space and mental space.


Without a doubt, the ability to creatively problem solve, to conceive new ideas, and employ new methods is increasingly important across many industries and work roles. A fresh perspective doesn’t have to mean a trip to Italy, although I’d happily volunteer to test it out any day. Considering our physical space and how we can use it as a tool is great, but temporal space (time), mental space (mindset), and how the three interact, are also important considerations. Next time you’re feeling stuck, try changing up your physical environment – a new setting, new décor, new music – whatever works for you!

Although people have been informally changing their physical environments to influence creativity for decades, it’s a relatively new area of research for neuroscience. Researchers have found evidence to support the hypothesis that our physical environment can speed up the process of neurogenesis — the rate at which our brain creates new neurons and neural connections. You can read more about it here.

While we might not be coming up with medical wonders, we like to think we’re at least helping people to get into the right mindset, to make the most of their time and to feel comfortable playing around with new and novel ideas, by providing an enjoyable space and a friendly face. We’d love to hear what you like to do/see/hear/go to shake things up too.

In the meantime, check out Make Space and Stanford’s d.school here, browse some ideas here, and find more photos of Jonas Salk here.