Rohan Silva is the co-founder of Second Home with Sam Alderton, a creative workspace and cultural venue in London that supports creativity, entrepreneurship and job creation in cities around the world. The company started in 2014, and has locations in Spitalfields, Holland Park and London Fields, with a new venue in Lisboa, Portugal opening this month. Second Home also has a bookshop called Libreria, which offers Risograph printing workshops, exhibitions and talks in its Spitalfields location.
Before Second Home, Rohan was previously senior policy adviser to the prime minister, where he worked across all areas of policy, but particularly enterprise, innovation and technology. In addition to his role, Rohan also created the government’s Tech City Initiative, which supports the growth of the technology cluster in east London.
As an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Art and a board member of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, it seemed only right to find out which books have shaped his understanding of the world and developed his passion for solving problems. On Rohan’s bookshelf, he shares a book about creativity within big cities and another about our affinity with the natural world.
Jane Jacobs: The Life and Death of Great American Cities
Second Home and Libreria wouldn’t exist without this book – it’s as simple as that. It was Jane Jacobs who opened my eyes to the way that cities could be more human, creative and alive – and thereby help people achieve more than they ever could by themselves.
The Life and Death of Great American Cities is just the most wonderful hymn to the rich diversity of urban life – and makes a passionate case for a socially responsible approach to housing and development, which is needed more urgently today than ever before.
E. F. Schumacher: Small is Beautiful
So many of the world’s problems have been created by simplistic economic thinking that fails to reflect the complexity of human behaviour, or the importance of ecosystems and social institutions.
E. F. Schumacher’s work helps redress that balance. In Small is Beautiful, he encourages us to think in a more holistic and organic way – recognising the wisdom of nature and organic systems, and also introducing concepts like “enoughness”, which show why profit maximisation and greed are the wrong impulses for humanity.
Gillian Tett: The Silo Effect
Gillian Tett was trained as an anthropologist, and in this book she applies her insights to the workplace, and the economy more generally. The results are astonishing. Tett reveals how much of the world is broken up into narrow categories – silos – and why this is such a problem, because innovation is much more likely to happen when different types of people and thinking collide.
At Libreria, and Second Home, we’re trying to break down spark creativity by encouraging the cross-pollination between industries and intellectual domains. This book is a massive inspiration for that agenda.
E. O. Wilson: Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life
We’re living at a time when biodiversity and natural environments are being destroyed at a catastrophic rate. On current trends, over half of all the species on the planet will be extinct by the end of the century, as a result of humanity’s greed and short-sightedness.
This profound book by Harvard professor E. O. Wilson brings home the incalculable and irrevocable damage we are doing to the world around us, and why this something we should all care about. It also helps us understand why we have such a deep and human affinity with the natural world, and why we must never lose sight of this.
E. O. Wilson was actually the first person to speak in Second Home’s auditorium, back in November 2014, which was a huge honour for me.
Richard Rogers: Cities for a Small Planet
This is the first time in history that over half of all the people on the planet live in towns and cities – and by 2050, it’s predicted that 70% of humanity will reside in urban areas. This unprecedented shift will either be hugely detrimental in terms of wellbeing, health and environmental sustainability – or lead to a positive future, with new opportunities for prosperity and learning that could enrich our lives.
It’s up to us to choose the right path, and Richard Rogers shows us the way. Using radical architecture, and by designing buildings and cities that are dense, diverse and socially responsible, we can ensure that our urban future is as bright as possible.
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