The Next Generation of Makerspaces

February 7th, 2017 |

There are all kinds of makerspaces in the Bay Area. Some focus on technology, others on craft. As a designer, I can’t afford having my own full-time studio or buying a lot of expensive tools to explore all my interests. But for a small sum, I can try out different makerspaces depending on what I need at a certain time.

When I was finishing my thesis project, I was vinyl cutting and silk screening my project. I needed an open space to print and clean my screens. I found the TechShop, a community-focused studio space located in the city. Each floor specializes in different methods. TechShop provides access to a laser cutter, a wood shop, a sewing area, and more.

Nearer to the office, I started using the art studio at UC Berkeley to work on ceramic pieces. This space is open to the public, not just students. I am also looking into Studio One Art Center in Oakland for a space closer to home where I can make art more frequently.Tovah Cook Ceramics

Makerspaces are unique because you can find assistance there, collaborate, or just inhabit a do-it-yourself atmosphere. I think of makerspaces as fortresses of art where the drawbridge is always open.

My sister is a science teacher, and she tells me what she wants in her classrooms and lab rooms, and it sounds a lot like what I want: a place that is flexible. It has enough infrastructure so you can make and build. It is a place where science and art meet.

UC Berkeley has institutionalized these kinds of spaces into the engineering program in a new building, Jacobs Hall. It’s not a fringe space that’s only for creative types. It’s worth checking out.

It turns out that I’ve been able to bring this maker sensibility into the office here at ELS, too. When we were interviewing for a retail center in Southern California, I suggested that, in our effort to rebrand the project, we distribute takeaway collateral that focuses on the brand message. I created pocket squares with the logo silkscreened on black silk. Duplicating the logo multiple times created a hieroglyphic pattern, which could also be applied to building surfaces to give the building texture and identity. But the design could be scaled down to the size of a shopping bag or even a pocket square. It was a great gift after the presentation.ELS Architecture
Our office currently has its own makerspace. We have a laser cutter and a 3D printer, and also an open space to cut and build models. Building models helps us and the client visualize a conceptual model through its tactile pieces.

I have a degree in graphic design as well as architecture, so I help bridge the gap between architecture and graphic design through visual communication, using a human-centered approach. I look at how patterns connect and how the environmental graphics can tie landscaping, architecture, and signage together. A storefront doesn’t just show retail products inside a structure. The store brand must also be integrated into the architecture, creating a brand experience and a memorable identity.

With architecture, you can experiment some, but you are dealing with somebody else’s money, so there are practical limits. Also, buildings take several years to finish. When I work on projects in a makerspace, I can experiment as much as I want and perhaps even finish something within a few weeks. Creative types need to tinker and see something to fruition. For example, the color of a glaze when it’s first applied looks completely different once fired in a kiln. Experimentation and collaboration play a major role in creation.

Makerspaces in schools are great for youth, because they are for the next generation of makers. These spaces becomes their safe space in a world where they often don’t have much control. There aren’t so many limits, and they can learn on their own. They can achieve something they never anticipated. Makerspaces are realms of experimentation that have therapeutic value. Personally, I don’t feel judged when I go to a makerspace. You don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing. You are going there to create. That’s what comes first.

A makerspace is my happy place.

Posted In: Architecture, Blog, makerspace

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