Integrating Art into the Workplace, Architecture & Urban Planning


Artwork by Vivienne Roche in progress at the Cork School of Music, commissioned by Murray Ó Laoire Architects and John Sisk and Son.

Artwork by Vivienne Roche
in progress at the Cork
School of Music,
commissioned by Murray
Ó Laoire Architects and
John Sisk and Son.

The concept of integrating Art and Craft into architectural design has been prevalent through the centuries from Classical Greek through Georgian architecture to Art Nouveau. With notable exceptions, the practice suffered in Ireland for most of the 20th century as property developers lacked the resources or the vision. This has changed in recent decades as enlightened clients and their architects have actively commissioned artworks for their new premises, homes, public buildings and social spaces.

This has been helped since the 1980s by the Per Cent for Arts Scheme, which has funded much of the recent public art created in Ireland. An important benefit of the scheme has been the continuing source of income for artists who practice in this area, and the range of art available to the public in often surprising locations – inspiring, entertaining and creating dialogue and debate.

From the drawing board stage, more and more architects are identifying and designing spaces for specific works of art, or are commissioning sculptures, paintings, water features, mosaics or tapestries as part of the overall design of new buildings. Companies, Government departments, universities, hospitals, professional and financial houses are commissioning or purchasing artworks to inspire, stimulate and impress both employees and clients.

In a recent US survey, companies stated that the art in their work environments was contributing to their company’s success by enhancing employee morale; opening up networking opportunities; reducing stress; increasing creativity and productivity; broadening employee appreciation of diversity; helping to build customer and community relations; and demonstrating the company’s interest in improving quality of life in and outside of the company.

Planning to bring the arts into the workplace

When planning a new building, set aside a budget for artworks as part of the overall scheme. Discuss your budget and ideas with your architect, project manager or quantity surveyor.

If you are in an existing building, look at the space around you. Could it be enhanced with visual art? Incorporate an annual budget for the purchase of contemporary art.

The space available will dictate the type of work chosen for display. Wall or floor space considerations should also be accompanied by considerations of whether natural or artificial light is available. For instance, an atrium filled with direct sunlight is not a practical place to hang watercolours, which will be damaged by the strong light. Consideration should also be made of what the space is used for, such as a cramped meeting room or coffee-making area would lend itself to framed and glazed wall hung-works, as chairs and liquid could do damage to the surface of an unglazed painting or print.

The art you choose should reflect the image you want to project for your company. A cutting edge, dynamic and innovative company might prefer to showcase young edgy artists working in new mediums to reflect this. In most cases, companies shy away from potentially controversial subject matter such as overly religious, political or sexual references.

In some companies a committee of employees decide on what to support, both charitably and artistically. Perhaps an arrangement could be made with a gallery to lend a selection of works for a period, allowing staff to view them and vote on which works the company should purchase.

Look at the purchase of a painting or piece of sculpture for retirement presentations, Christmas gifts, annual awards, achievement awards.

Commission an artist to produce a painting, print or photography of your building, your staff or an abstract. This could be used for your annual report, Christmas cards, calendar or promotional material.

Companies on a tight budget should consider renting artworks, in the same way that they rent some office equipment. Some galleries now offer a rental service, with a stock to choose from. Of course, unlike computers and office furniture, artworks are the one piece of office décor that can appreciate in value – think of your growing collection as part of your investment portfolio!!

How Business to Arts can help

Business to Arts has worked with some of our business members to help develop collections for their offices, and we have done this in innovative ways, involving staff in the selection process to ensure democracy.

Design by New Graphic.