Creative environments and the generation of new ideas

The following post is from Barbara Rodriguez D., a graduate student at Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF.

Does place matter in the creation of new ideas? To what extent do geographical qualities, urban form, and buildings influence creative processes and the conversations that give birth to great ideas? How do current corporate efforts to create more sustainable environments affect creativity? Are these efforts worth it? Does place matter at all?

These were some of the questions I had before going to Silicon Valley.

Now that our trip is almost over, I can say that place does matter. The particular setting of the Valley shapes an overwhelming amount of evidence for this argument.  Silicon Valley distinguish itself as a center of highly innovative technological development, but is also a unique, creative, and sustainable environment for experimentation and collaboration. The related values of pragmatic efficiency and inventiveness carefulness shape its work, family, and public environments.

All of the companies that we visited give great importance to providing a playful and pleasant working environment to their employees. Almost all of the companies are developing ambitious sustainable strategies in creative and collaborative ways. Recently Ethisphere Magazine recognized eBay as one of the most ethical companies of 2011.  eBay has innovative and technology based social ventures, including the Green Team,, Microplace, and eBay Giving Works.

Social creativity, discipline, cultural pluralism, and collaboration illuminates everyday environments. Recurrent themes emerge as we examine  the stories of creative environments in silicon Valley. All of the working environments we visited are shaped by a  strong ethos of experimentation, an overwhelming cultural complexity, and an outstanding spirit of collaboration.

Although I was able to answer my initial questions, many questions remain unresolved for the future. If place matters, and urban form together with corporate environment are capable of enhancing creative processes, then are some strategies more effective than others? To what extent are these strategies applicable to other cities? And finally what can we do as designers, educators and urban shapers to enhance the proliferation of innovation ecosystems? These are some of the questions I hope to explore in the following years.