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Strategic Design

[Originally published January 2016.]

We’re making nano assemblers that build cells, we’re making micro assemblers that build integrated circuits, we’re making macro assemblers that build jumbo jets, we’re making giant assemblers that build geological scale features, and we’re working on space assemblers to build space civilizations, all based on this fundamental transition of digitizing fabrication, not by making the design digital, but by actually putting codes into the construction of the material. It fundamentally is a third digital revolution.

-Professor Neil Gershenfeld.

The Floating Fab Lab is a project that aims to exemplify the third digital revolution. The pilot floating Lab will be easily replicable, highly mobile, will generate more power than it needs to operate, and will encourage inclusivity and personal growth.

“What is the purpose of a Fab Lab, other than producing a project?” James Brazil (Australia/Spain), founding member of the international design studio uAbureau, mused during a chat over Hangouts. “The community: building urban resilience as a public service.”

James moved to Barcelona over six years ago, so uAbureau could be involved in the construction of the first Fab Lab House. He’s worked on the FLF since the beginning, almost two years now, and seen the project expand. He’s excited to see it nearing the launchpad. He says uAbureau has a similar approach to concept creation and development as digital fabrication spaces, namely in that they incorporate research of the local community into the design process. “It’s a continual process,” he said, “the why, how, and who for.”

Next month James and several members of the design team will embark on a four week excursion into the Amazon to coordinate the collaborative design process with local citizens, community groups, industry and government representatives, and educational institutions.

Other members of the FLF team are focusing on getting the word out. In November, founder Beno Juarez (Peru) presented at Demand Solutions, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank at the National Public Library in Peru. Beno was one of about twenty speakers, all exploring innovative methods for improving urban lives, covering topics such as creative cities, 3D printing, and entrepreneurship. And earlier this month, networking specialist Maria Melo Bento (Portugal/USA) presented via videoconference at the Girls’ Lounge during the Consumer Electronics Show, hosted annually in Las Vegas. The Girls’ Lounge is a group advocating for gender equality, particularly in the corporate world, and probably opted to showcase the FLF due to the project’s emphasis on social change.

Not everyone’s job involves a lot of movement and exposure. Norella Coronell (Colombia) first heard about the FLF about a year ago when Beno gave a presentation in Barranquilla, Norella’s hometown, where she’s currently trying to launch the city’s first Fab Lab. She got involved with the FLF six months later after she finished her Masters Degree in Project Management and has been hard at work behind the scenes, managing this huge glocal team. As management strategist, she’s “the person who plans, monitors, and assigns tasks of all this is necessary for the organization of the project to meet its goals and objectives.” She facilitates communication throughout the community, organizing weekly meetings online, and is coordinating Fab Sourcing, the program to crowdsource for materials and resources.

The Floating Fab Lab is a hugely ambitious project, and due to the efforts of its many members dispersed across the globe, is gaining serious momentum. The next few months will be very important for both the design and management teams, as we steer the project toward becoming a reality.

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