Fab Lab Barcelona is part of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaaC), where it support different educational and research programs related with the multiple scales of the human habitat.
Fab Lab Barcelona
Fablab looking to change economy & society
Fab Lab Barcelona in details
All you need to know about the workshop before getting there
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A guided tour of Fab Lab Barcelona
Interview of Tomas Diez & Santi Fuentemilla Garriga and immersion into the workshop
MakerTour's 6 topics
Understand in depth the mecanisms and practices of this workshop
In 2006, IaaC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia) decided to set up a kind of fabrication laboratory, as a platform for students projects. “In many other schools, the same was happening, creating prototyping facilities. IaaC was collaborating with the MIT, so instead of setting up another prototyping laboratory, we experimented together the creation of a fablab, for more than the students. It opened in May 2007.”
But why a fablab in an architecture institute? “The approach to architecture here is very wide, with different mediums, from bits to geography, from a very small scale to a territory. Understanding that the new technologies emerging would transform cities and societies.”
Tomas Diez (intern there in 2007) became in charge of the lab set up: collaborating with the MIT, choosing the machines, running the projects. “The fablab was thought for the students to make architectural prototypes but also for the people. Not only to reproduce things as they are, but to make almost anything, stuffs you cannot find on a shelf.” Here are some of the projects developed there.
In 2016, “the mission and philosophy are the same, transitioning to the FabCity! We now have different users, with pros, FabAcademy students and kids, but always want people to leave with something.”
“We are a little different from others labs since we’re within an architecture university. IaaC’s students are the first users, along with the FabAcademy students, the university staff, and the Fab Pro users. External people can’t come everyday to make stuffs, but have the OpenDays to visit and ask questions to the team and community.”
“Our students come from all over the world, creating a bubble of people coming and leaving. And though it’s the first fablab in the EU, it’s not so well-known in Barcelona itself. People know more about the government/council fablabs “los ateneus de fabricació digital" with all the communication made around.”
What do they make here? “Academic students work on self-sufficient building and sustainable ways to make architecture and cities: green facades, water recycling, etc. With the pro members, we “make as a service”, like with Leka Restaurante people. All their interior design and furnitures were made here.”
To go beyond students one-time use, Fab Lab Barcelona is thinking of having them develop a real project for an outside company using the fablab. “One request we had was to make an interactive lamp for a square, that would tell people if they’re making too much noise!”
The pedagogy and animation
Now, the fablab’s team has 15 members (10 full-time). A director, a coordinator, two people on Fab Pro, two on FabAcademy, one for IaaC students, one on FabTextile and others working on specific projects like Smart Citizen!
Coming here for the first time, “we’ll welcome you with smiles (laughs)! Fab Pro people have two ways: the “make it for me” (short-term consumer demand) or the “train me to make it myself” (specific trainings, advices). For the others, you should come here, tell us what you want to do. We’ll see what you can make on your own, point you at resources and give advices all along the way!”
Many events, classes and meetings rythm Fab Lab Barcelona’s life: two sets of workshops (all details here), bootcamps (one-week full days or two-week half-days) once a year, OpenDays once a month, plus conferences and talks!
There, you’ll also find the FabAcademy, six months to learn how to make (almost) anything and its new variations; the PreAcademy (bootcamps) and FabAcademy X (one or two months). And also the FabKids 10-workshop series aimed at 12-year old kids! They’re about educational and recreational activities, focused on design and digital fabrication.
“With the FabAcademy students, everything is documented. They have to create their own website to document all their project steps throughout the six months.” All the students websites are there.
“For the fablab, it’s different. We had a wiki where we put all the settings and specs of materials, machines, machines use, etc. It’s not running at the moment though because we are changing servers. Regarding the projects, we have a dedicated page on the website. But it’s more a communication than a project documentation.”
“To document properly projects, we use GitHub and start to use fablabs.io. We don’t have just one platform or system where we share everything!”
With all these different tools, Fab Lab Barcelona people try to document the projects, the fablab’s life, the specs details about materials and machines, among other things. “We don’t force anyone to document. Academic students make portfolios and project books for IaaC, but they don’t use the website or platform.”
The business model
Fab Lab Barcelona initial set up in 2007 cost 150.000 euros. A 3-people team deployed the project. The space work was operated by IaaC, where the fablab is located. The machines were funded with partnerships and the other bought.
Today, the fablab gathers a 15-people team, 150 IaaC students, 20 FabAcademy students and few Fab Pro users. The model? IaaC non-profit org combined to a private company, Fablab Network Ltd Company. Approx. yearly budget? 450.000 euros. The main income sources? One third from education activities: master program, FabAcademy, workshops. Another third from grants, (especially EU): research grants. And the last one from Fab Pro services. The fablab created long-term partnerships with the Fab Foundation and the FabAcademy.
Tomorrow, Fab Lab Barcelona aims to increase its budget to be able to invest into projects, set up more established partnerships with large companies. “Not become bigger, but make it better”, help other labs to exist and develop the FabAcademy.
The success indicators according to Tomas Diez? “Find a mess when you enter, a beautiful mess, that is the very first thing a fablab should show. A fablab should be economically sustainable by supporting many other interconnected but independent projects around. I also think that the response from the team to outsiders also shows the state of the lab. A fablab should be always ready to receive people, and give at least a smile!”
“We were the first fablab in the European Union. What happens here is a kind of reference for the rest of fablabs, for some strange reasons (laughs). And this aura attracts people from all over the world to come the fablab. Maybe it comes from our many contacts with the MIT, the fact that we have been creating our network and impacting the city for almost ten years! The city and Barcelona’s environment help a lot.”
Looking at Fablab Barcelona environmental practices, they “try to work as much as possible with regional or Spanish suppliers, for everything. But it’s not always possible so we must get things from Europe or beyond.”
In the city, there are specific days to put the trash in the streets. “This week, we created a workshop about recycled furnitures made from scraps, trashes, and stuffs found in the streets. We try also to recycle as much as we can.”
Projects with environmental impact come to life there too. Like SmartCitizen, an open source technology for citizens political participation in smarter cities, with kits to monitor urban environment data! Another famous one is the Fab Lab House, a solar self-sufficient habitat adaptable and customisable, using fablab community and technologies. Infos and video here.
The great practices of Fab Lab Barcelona
The good initiatives of this workshop which should inspire everyone
The future development and projects of the workshop
Accelerate Fab Lab Barcelona’s projects
Tomas Diez explained us he would like to accelerate some of the projects we are working on very hardly like:
Assemble the Fab City Research Lab
The acceleration of Fab Lab Barcelona’s projects goes together with “the idea of moving to a place only for the lab, which now we assemble in the Fab City Research Lab, that joins together Fab Lab Barcelona, the Green Fab Lab and the projects and programs we are running.” More cities like Toulouse & Paris should join the global FabCity initiative during Fab12, the annual community gathering taking place in early august in Shenzhen this year.
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A few links and ressources about the workshop
- Movilab's link: movilab.org/index.php?title=Maker_Tour
- Fab Lab Barcelona on GitHub : https://github.com/fablabbcn
- Fab Lab Barcelona on Vimeo : http://vimeo.com/fablabbcn/videos
- Tomás Diez: «Tout un écosystème émerge autour de la Fab City à Barcelone» : http://www.makery.info/2015/03/13/tomas-diez-tout-un-ecosysteme-emerge-autour-de-la-fab-city-a-barcelone/
- Fab Lab Barcelona : de l’école à la Smart City : http://strabic.fr/FabLab-Barcelona-de-l-ecole-a-la-smart-city
for their warm welcome and the time they dedicated to the initiative!