Open Works: Where Art Meets Technology

posted in Process on January 20 by Ethan Marchant, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Makerspaces are popping up all over the country. While the popularity of this trend is growing at a rapid pace, the revolution of creative culture has been in motion for years. Sharing of both ideas and goods has blossomed due to the influences of social media and the quantity of easily accessible information online. Websites such as Instructables and Etsy have taken the maker culture from basement and garage workshops to mainstream audiences.

Now imagine a physical space that provides the ability to share creative tools, equipment, and knowledge with other like-minded people much in the same way many people use a gym. For a monthly fee, members share access to equipment, training, a wide variety of classes, and a small workspace. While often technology based, the potential for collaboration and cross pollination of creative thought is exciting for artists, designers, and craftsmen who cannot otherwise justify the investment of a fully equipped shop.

CBH+A has been engaged in the design of exactly such a space here in our own city. Open Works, a community centric makerspace, will be coming to the eastern gateway of Station North Arts and Entertainment District. In the true spirit of the maker culture, this project will be the adaptive reuse of an early 21st century industrial building in a location that is ideally located to reach city residents, commuters, students, and artists alike.

In this makerspace, it has been important to balance production shops with more flexible space. Digital fabrication plays a large role in Open Works, ranging from small 3D printer electronic labs and computer studios to a large CNC Fab Shop. More traditional workshops are also represented for wood, metal, and textile working. A large open lobby and cafe provides opportunity for cultural and community aspects of the program, like gallery shows and events, while indoor and outdoor teaching spaces will create a venue for a shared knowledge base.

I believe that both community-centered projects and the arts in general have a transformative effect on their surroundings. Introducing this particular neighborhood to innovative means for artistic collaborations and new manufacturing processes will result in intrigue, engagement, and ultimately an increased pride in the City.