When you think of an innovation space, by that I mean a space in which people can be creative and explore ideas, what kind of space do you think of? For the lone creatives and the artsy types, picture a hipster bar and nightclub. There’s a cafe downstairs with a patio and a place for intimate chats or for sitting quietly and writing while sipping espresso. The decor is distinctly bold, with colors asserting defiance against the beige walls and ultra-modern furniture of nearby establishments. Music is playing a little louder than usual but it blends well with the atheistic of the cafe; it’s more instrumental than rock vocals. There are couches to sit in and plenty of wifi to be shared by all. It’s a place to exchange idea, a salon of sorts. And it’s here that people will write research papers, read novels, and chat over beer, wine and coffee about all manner of subjects. It’s a place for cultural exchange and a place that’s very accessible. Food and drink are relatively cheap and the space isn’t so pristine as to say “don’t touch anything”. Instead, the space says “welcome, come in and have something to drink. Grab a table — bring a friend if you like — spend some time here, and most of all, don’t feel in a rush. There’s time to enjoy the company of others and to think here.” It’s what some would call a “sticky” place, somewhere you will go and spend a couple hours doing whatever it is you need to do. The space is comfortable and the atmosphere is relaxed. Don’t forget the electrical outlets complete with USB charging stations for everyone’s mobile phones.
Next door is a space for all the people who want to make things. There are large tables where people can spread out their supplies, build and assemble. A supply cabinet plays host to all those office supplies that you know you need but can easily share. And your $10 a month membership covers all the consumable Post-It notes, butcher paper and big markers that you use in the process of making your thing. Of course we can’t forget the computer lab over against the wall and laptop desks nearby for all the computer creative types who are writing, programming and tinkering with their digital devices on the local network that has blazing fast internet access and a “feel-free-to-break-it” policy when it comes to trying new things in the digital world. Opposite are all the various “printers” one uses to convert digital files to physical things. You’ve got traditional paper printers and copiers, additive manufacturing (3D Printers), laser cutter and simple computer controlled routers. In the back, the big machines and construction oriented tools can be found. It’s a big workshop of benches and tables and tools galore. Every type of tool from Home Depot can be found in addition to big tools like mills, lathes (both manual and CNC) along with a welding station, saws, punches, sand blasters and more. There are mobile cranes and lifts to help out with the heavy stuff and an overhead crane, just because.
If the makers don’t feel like going to the hipster cafe next door, they can go to the traditional coffee shop or bar across the street for a bite or drink. There’s also a 24-hour restaurant around the corner that serves good food with a fun alternative vibe. It’s a community of creative types and the necessary resources they need all around them. For the bookworms and those who need a quieter environment, there’s a big library upstairs with lots of books, common areas, beanbag chairs for reading or chatting and quiet areas to work hard in. And there are windows everywhere. That’s not to say there aren’t dark corners and places of recluse, but the spaces all interact with and are shaped by the environment around them. They let in the outside world through those windows and coexist with it. Everything works together.