When Nicolaus Copernicus published his magnum opus “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) in 1543 he initiated a true scientific revolution by placing the Sun rather than the Earth as the center of the universe. It is hard to overstate the importance of this event and to fully embrace the fundamental shift it meant. The ripple effect can still be felt some 500 years later.
Currently, our societies are going through a similar conceptual change, placing innovation at the center of attention. Thanks to the ICT revolution, field after field has opened up for new solutions based on open standards, lower hurdles and increased levels of education.
This shift is fundamental and positive since it brings power to the people. Innovation is an alternative to business as usual and it seeps through every crack in every wall built up to keep innovation out. Resistance is futile. The future belongs to innovation.
We speak a lot about innovation. However, we speak less about all the aspects creating innovation. And we speak absolutely too little about how we build the physical environments in which innovation happens. To city planners and architects alike, this is a new challenge.
It happens so that with innovation comes mobility and an urge to socialize with other innovative and forward-looking people. Through new connections and networks innovation is furthered. That’s why people gather in Silicon Valley despite its ferocious competition, bloated egos and skyrocketing price levels.
But how can you re-create the Silicon Valley success without a Stanford University, Apple Computer, a Californian sun and the Sand Hill road investor “ghetto”? It is tricky, but not impossible. One of the solutions to the problem is in fact a strength of the Old World that is fully possible to envy from a US perspective – the amount of cities with strong cores. They provide natural gathering spots, pairing work environments with entertainment and action. US cities are arguably amongst the top of the league with the likes of San Francisco, Chicago, Washington or Boston, but there are many more such cities in Europe.
This brings us to the challenge for city planners and architects. Far too many of them sing the praise of the city (their city, as it happens…) and its beautiful parks, people and restaurants. Far too few of them realize that the city is only a macro environment. For innovation to happen you also need a necessary amount of creative people, good education, a thriving business community and microenvironments; places to meet and work that have the necessary air of innovation panache, fun and progression.
In New York and San Francisco you find plenty of such places, sprung up as a result of demand from the new and innovation-driven creative class. Now freshly roused architects and city planners scramble alongside politicians to create these sought-after environments by design, because, to no surprise, innovative people are good at moving around. They will not be satisfied living just anywhere and will choose their whereabouts. The future competition for innovators and creators is truly global, leaving a city like Milan to compete with Tokyo, Seattle, Cape Town, New York and San Francisco, besides competing with Rome, Turin and Bologna.
This is a long backdrop to the question that confronted us in bringing Feeding the Accelerator to Milan. To which physical place should we take our ambitions? Was there any such place in Milan? Would it hold the necessary level? Would we be forced to open our own place?
Enter Copernico (Italian for Copernicus), the revolutionary innovation hub born from the collaboration of Studio DC10 and Halldis, with the ambition of putting man at the center of the working universe, much like Copernicus put the Sun at the center some 500 years before. The space is designed for people to meet, relate and discuss. For work and enjoyment – a laboratory for ideas. Coming out of Italy, it is of course very stylish.
But we must confess we were a little anxious the first time we saw it – 15,000 square meters (160,000 square feet) of torn-out office space, a façade that left everything to imagination and a bunch of fancy renderings.
Copernico kept their tight schedule, opened a few months ago and have surpassed the renderings. And it has become the innovative place they claimed it would be. Thus speaks and acts true innovators. We are glad that we trusted their abilities and they trusted our ambitions. In the month of September you can see for yourself when you are welcome to participate in a series of activities taking place at the USA Pavilion innovation hub at Copernico, merging tech and food. Perhaps fostering another Copernican revolution.
Pictures from Wikimedia Commons