Creative Hothouses Part 2

March 7th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity

A colleague asked me to provide further information on history’s “Creative Hothouses”, such as ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian cafes and salons (early 1900s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933). Following is a summary of history’s creative hothouses.

Ancient Athens

The Athenians during the Golden Age of Greece (500 – 300 BC), created forms of history, mathematics, democracy, political science, philosophy, drama, architecture and sculpture, that continue to influence our world today. The hothouse of Athens was able to fuse a number of cultural domains into distinctive forms such as buildings, literature and politics. Thousands of years later the achievements of Athens played a crucial role in inspiring the Renaissance.

European Renaissance

The Renaissance Period (1300 to 1600), particularly in Florence, was characterised as the age of exploration with an emergence of new knowledge that influenced art and science. The knowledge from the ancient Greco-Roman period, that had lay dormant for a millennium, suddenly gained a renewed interest that further influenced the explosion of art and science. Advances in a number of industries occurred, including, travel, metallurgy, optics, ballistics, construction and agriculture. An exponential growth of wealth and knowledge also drove the emergence of the nation-state, each with its increased military power. The legacy created by the Renaissance Period was in the form of art. Life-like oil paintings and sculptures, the use of perspective, and the design of visually inspiring architecture was developed during the Renaissance.

The Parisian Cafes and Salons

During the early twentieth century, following the Paris World Fair in 1900, an industrial boom occurred in Europe and the United States, bringing new technological developments such as the horseless carriage, the wireless radio, widespread use of the telephone, and the proliferation of electric light bulbs. It was also the time when Albert Einstein published his first paper on the Theory of Relativity. During the early 1900s the Parisian cafes were social hubs fuelled by coffee, wine, and creative passion, where people would meet in an environment conducive to sharing mutually stimulating ideas and conversations. Gertrude Stein’s apartment also became one of the significant hothouses in Paris in the 1920s, with gatherings every Saturday night (salons) and visits throughout the week. Stein collected paintings of notable artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Braque before they became famous. The apartment became a salon of creativity where artists, poets and writers (Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ernest Hemingway and Thornton Wilder to name a few) came together to share their experiences and fuel creative inspiration through the process of osmosis.

German Bauhaus

The German Bauhaus (1919-1933) under the leadership of Walter Gropius provided a workshop experience for architecture, sculpture, art and design. It also became the creative hub that bridged art and business where new creations could be transformed into products for the market. It brought together the cultural and physical landscapes to develop and stimulate students through transfering the skills of the masters. Many students then became masters teaching their learnings and experiences to future students. In 1934 when the Nazis declared all modern art to be ‘un-German”, the Bauhaus moved to Chicago where it became the New Bauhaus and later the Institute of Design.

Common Characteristics

The hothouses in history had a number of characteristics that were common, particularly the ability to accomplish the following (extracted from “The Hothouse Effect”):

  1. Sustain a high level of innovative creativity for a significant period of time
  2. Draw on the knowledge and innovation of the broader cultural community to which it belonged
  3. Spawn geniuses whose achievements climax the work of many other practitioners at all levels of achievements
  4. Establish a new paradigm, that is, a new way of doing things that informs its creative products and establishes new principles, procedures and standards.
  5. Achieve wide recognition and establish a lasting legacy to which future generations continually return to emulate.

It may also be interesting to study some of the more modern creative hothouses, such as Silicon Valley, and learn how intellectual exchanges led, in this example, to the development of the “ boom”.

You may also know of other creative hothouses, local regional or national, that you would like to share.

Dr John Kapeleris

Did you like this? Share it:
Be Sociable, Share!

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can leave a response, or trackback.

6 Responses

  • admin says:

    Another creative hothouse example occurred during the period between between 1900 to 1930 when the world’s leading physicists were redefining the nature of matter through the emergence of the field of quantum mechanics. Leading scientists such as Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Planck, Curie and others worked together to redefine the subatomic realms that behaved very differently to Newtonian physics.

    A notable event was the Solvay Physics Congress in Brussels in 1927 when Einstein kept posing ‘thought experiments’ that challenged quantum theory. Heisenberg, Bohr and Pauli would then work on answers to the daily questions posed by Einstein. This process of intellectual exchange continued over several days resulting in an in-depth exploration of the core discipline of quantum theory.

    The following link shows a photo of the 29 attendees of the 1927 Solvay Congress, of which 17 were or became Nobel prize recipients link to

  • John King says:

    Great article! Are there any examples of Creative Hothouses in Australia?

    • John Kapeleris says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the comments!

      A great example of a Creative Hothouse in Australia is QUT’s Creative Industries Precinct (link to which is a site dedicated to experimentation and commercial development in the creative industries.

      The Creative Industries Precinct is part of the Kelvin Grove Urban Village (link to which is a diverse city fringe community, linking learning with enterprise, and creative industry with community. A great inititaive of the Brisbane – Australia’s New World City (link to

      Another example is the Sunshine Coast Innovation Centre (link to which offers a Business Incubator and Business Accelerator both of which provide an attractive package of business services – including serviced offices, high speed fibre connections, consulting support, investment readiness and networking for growth businesses.



  • Sophie Kapeleris says:

    A great example of a Creative Hothouse is the Innovation Series Luncheons held in Brisbane, Sydney and now in Melbourne. The Innovation Series is a forum bringing together high profile businesses and research organisations to showcase leading Innovations and technologies through presentations from thought leaders who are the best in their fields. The events feature a core Innovation theme and facilitate knowledge sharing and encourage collaborations that ultimately lead to new opportunities and technology developments.

    Further information can be found at link to

    Regards Sophie

  • Hi John,
    My experiences of innovative teams involved a great deal of enjoyment as well as hard work. I wonder whether ‘fun’ or ‘joy’ plays a part in innovation. I wonder whether people in each of these periods were enjoying the work and their accomplishments. From my experience, people are more creative when they enjoy themselves, even when under intense pressure.

    Regarding innovation in Central Queensland, Fitzroy Basin Association (with which I am involved) has always pursued community and stakeholder involvement in innovative ways; and a couple of years ago launched an innovation fund to seed innovations in their areas of operation.


    • admin says:

      Dear Geoff,

      Thank you for your comments. I agree that fun and enjoyment plays a significant part in innovative teams and creative hothouses. The Parisian cafes and salons for examples would have involved a significant amount of enjoyment through social interaction.

      In my previous role at Panbio Ltd I had the opportunity to attend a Parisian salon in a chateau outside of Lyon in the early 2000s that was hosted by a mutual friend of mine and Mel Bridges (CEO of Panbio at the time). When we arrived we were greeted with delicacies atop an old wine barrel in the cellar of the chateau. We were then guided upstairs to the lounge room where we were greeted with further appetisers. We were introduced to additional people who joined us to indulge in a number of thinking games that stimulated our minds. This was followed with a sit-down four course meal with drinks, which involved additional discussion around a number of prepared topic items. A scribe recorded all the conversations and ideas shared around the table. We also discovered that the dinner party involved participants who each had one degree of separation (based on an interest area or background) with someone else in the room. The salon continued to about 3:30am the next morning.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *