Exploring the Harmonious Convergence of Art, Nature, and Productivity in Coworking Spaces: A Journey from The Living Room to PROSTOR

By Kelly O’Brien 

Three years ago, set against the backdrop of a worsening global pandemic, I embarked on a transformative journey where I relocated to the Spanish sun-soaked city of Málaga. 

My professional life had started a number of years before this, on the bustling streets of Ireland, where I served as a journalist and assistant news editor for renowned publications like the Irish Examiner and Evening Echo newspapers. For a time, my career path looked set… but my itchy feet had other ideas. 

My wanderlust led me to explore distant shores, working on a freelance basis as a journalist, marketer, social media manager, and tech writer. Life was good… and then Covid-19 came along, forcing me to grow some roots. At the end of 2020, I made Málaga my new home.

It was here, in the heart of this vibrant city, that I discovered The Living Room (TLR) Coworking—a creative sanctuary and a hub within the European Creative Hubs Alliance (ECHN).

TLR: A Creative Oasis

My transition from the bustling newsrooms of Ireland to the warm embrace of TLR was a pivotal moment in my life. TLR, under the meticulous guidance of its owner, Ben Kolp, has evolved into an artful masterpiece of a coworking office. Ben, a true visionary, not only welcomed me with open arms but also entrusted me with the responsibility of curating the blog section of their website, and managing TLR’s overall social media presence. Suddenly, I found myself immersed in all things coworking – not only working FROM the space, but FOR the space. 

The Art and Greenery Transformation

Within a few months of my arrival, Ben set in motion an amazing TLR initiative. Local artists graced our walls with their masterpieces, turning our office into a vibrant gallery. 

Furthermore, a local service, run by Sonja Breuer, introduced lush green plants, beautifully integrated into our workspace, enriching the atmosphere and enhancing the overall ambiance. (For more on that, check out a piece I wrote for TLR’s blog here.)

These simple yet profound changes aimed to make TLR a more creative and uplifting place to work and spend time. 

The pièce de résistance came in the form of a street artist called Adam Palmeter who created a captivating mural on our rooftop. Furthermore, TLR’s artistic expression continued with a graffiti workshop, which allowed TLR’s members to contribute to the creation of street art within the office itself.

The Catalyst for Change

My immersion in this transformational process at TLR led me to ponder the broader significance of art and greenery within coworking areas. Could the infusion of art and greenery truly enhance productivity and foster a more profound sense of community within a coworking environment? These thoughts ultimately led me to embark on a project organised by the European Creative Hubs Network (ECHN) and co-funded by the European Commission that took me from the sun-kissed shores of Málaga to the enchanting city of Split, Croatia, and the creative hub known as PROSTOR.

PROSTOR: A New Frontier

The creative hub PROSTOR in Split, Croatia, served as the perfect backdrop for my exploration. This space showcased a passionate commitment to art, nature, and community. It quickly became the second chapter in my aim to unearth the impact of art and greenery on happiness, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

Within PROSTOR, I delved into a project that involved conducting interviews and disseminating a survey to their members. The responses I received were nothing short of enlightening. Participants aged between 18 and 44 shared their insights, and their voices echoed a common sentiment: the presence of art in the workplace positively affects productivity. 

One participant articulated it best by saying: “It makes the space more cozy, I feel that the space has a soul, and it’s more interesting.”

A Remarkable Consensus

A unanimous consensus emerged when participants were asked whether they felt happier when working in an area that incorporates art and nature. Every respondent emphatically affirmed this notion. Their feedback reflected a harmony between nature, art, and work that resonated deeply with me.

One encapsulated the essence of this connection when they shared: “It boosts my productivity. [There is the] possibility to interact with others and to see them working helps me focus.” 

This statement mirrored the very essence of a harmonious workplace where individuals thrive through collaboration and a shared sense of purpose.

Another respondent aptly pointed out: “It makes me feel like I’m a part of a community and helps me to meet people like me and expand my knowledge.” 

A third added: “The biggest difference in PROSTOR vs. other spaces is the feeling of community. It is a small space where you can easily get to know everyone. Everyone is really friendly as well. I really enjoyed being able to chat with everyone there as if we were friends or coworkers. At larger coworking spaces, I rarely engage with others, as it’s common to strike up a conversation with those around you.” 

The Power of Art and Greenery

My experience at the ECHN hub PROSTOR reaffirmed my belief in the transformational power of art and greenery within an office setting. The project, the interviews, and the survey all painted a vivid picture of how the presence of art and nature not only enhances productivity but also fosters a sense of community and well-being. This compelling narrative further fueled my passion for exploring the interconnectedness of these elements and their impact on the modern workspace.

Here are some further facts and figures from the PROSTOR art and greenery survey:

  • 100% of respondents said the presence of art in the workspace positively affected their productivity.
  • 100% of respondents said they feel happier when working in a space that incorporates art and nature.
  • When asked to mark, on a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied they were with their experience at PROSTOR’s unique workspace, 100% of respondents chose 10, indicating they were extremely happy with their PROSTOR experience. 
  • When asked to mark, on a scale of 1 to 5, how much they believe that green surroundings (including plants in an office setting) contribute to your sense of well-being and relaxation, 100% of respondents chose either 4 or 5. 
  • When asked to mark, on a scale of 1 to 5, how much they believe that arts-focused environments could enhance creativity and inspiration, 100% of respondents chose either 4 or 5. 

The PROSTOR Experience

Beyond the project’s objectives, I must express my profound gratitude to the exceptional team at PROSTOR. They opened their doors, hearts, and minds to me, ensuring that my time in Split was truly enlightening and enjoyable. One standout individual was Jasmina, co-founder of PROSTOR and Culture Hub Croatia. Her generosity, knowledge, and willingness to participate in interviews and assist with survey dissemination were invaluable, as was the contribution of PROSTOR volunteer Zeljka Vuko and PROSTOR collaborator Michael Freer.

In addition, the recommendations of Jasmina, Zeljka, and Michael for exploring the breathtaking city of Split during my spare time added a truly personal touch to my visit. Split’s historic beauty and the vibrancy of its streets left an indelible mark on my heart.

The Power of Collaboration

The project’s significance was further magnified by the presence of my fellow co-worker from TLR, the talented filmmaker Sam Watkins. Sam’s decision to accompany me to Split was a pivotal moment in the project’s evolution. His creative eye and dedication enhanced the project by creating a visually captivating video that brought the impact of art and greenery to life. Sam’s collaboration reinforced the core message and left an indelible mark on our shared experience.

Conclusion

In conclusion, my journey from TLR to PROSTOR under the auspices of the European Creative Hubs Network was a truly worthwhile, eye-opening, and positive experience. The project I undertook has illuminated the profound connection between art, nature, productivity, and happiness in the coworking environment. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to explore these themes, and I believe that the insights gained will contribute to a deeper understanding of the essential role that art and greenery play in our modern workspaces. The warmth, generosity, and knowledge shared by the PROSTOR team and my collaboration with Sam Watkins have made this experience all the more enriching. Overall, this program has been a deeply worthwhile endeavor, one that I will carry with me as I continue to explore the ever-evolving landscape of creative hubs and coworking spaces.