The Ultimate Maker Space Race

Sept. 1, 2015
UI Labs’ Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute comprises education, corporate and government entities in a new, specialized paradigm of design.

The large, sophisticated, colorful storefront of UI Labs’ Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute announces “The future today” and depicts Chicago as a digital manufacturing hub of the world. “This facility represents the new generation of manufacturing,” says the projects’ head of design team for Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Jaime Velez.

Hatched at the University of Illinois, UI Labs wanted to create a collaborative environment that streamlines training, design and manufacturing all on one site—a kind of fantasy maker-space that affords collaboration with instant results, in stark contrast to the traditional model where education, manufacturing and design happen at separate institutions. That complex program will host a number of users, from permanent employees to project-based groups and on-site trainees, a variety that presented an obvious design challenge. “We have to accommodate a population that is ever-changing,” says Velez.

The firm and the client’s post-occupancy knowledge sharing will help to perfect this new model. “There was no [corporate] DNA to be extracted, just an educated guess, so we’ll be talking to them to see what works and what doesn’t,” says Velez. The over-arching, ambitious goal is to build more facilities of this kind, in a quest to reinstate the United States as a viable player in the digital manufacturing world. The space plan offers specialized areas serving different work modes. Flexible furniture, enclosed niches for two to 20 occupants, and partitioned lecture spaces to accommodate 100-300 trainees all support collaboration, socialization and learning. Hands-on experiential learning will take place on the manufacturing floor, which is adjacent to the “Town Hall”, with a café at its core.

The team anticipates that labs, universities and digital manufacturing corporations will quickly realize the value in the shared space. “The physical adjacency of things [manufacturing, design collaboration, education] will allow conceptual results to happen a lot faster,” says Velez.

Sponsored Recommendations