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A new installation at the NY Hall of Science celebrates DIY culture
The recently opened Maker Space at the New York Hall of Science is just what its name implies—a place to make things. The initial installation is by Singer Sewing Company, which donated 18 sewing machines, a garment steamer, finishing iron, and other equipment that will teach children and families the basics of sewing and quilting. Programming will also include workshops about conductive fabrics and soft circuits that can be used in a range of applications. The space is a symbol of work that can come out of fostering a culture of scientific learning through hands-on projects. Designed and fabricated by Brooklyn-based Situ Studio, the Maker Space itself is contained within a plywood 3-pin arch structure based on themes of craft and assembly.
“Situ Studio and the New York Hall of Science share the conviction that the act of making itself can and should become a generative part of both learning and design,” said Situ’s Wes Rozen at the opening. “We are thrilled to be able to work with the New York Hall of Science on Maker Space as it is a project which, in many ways, is the embodiment of these values.”
Situ’s structure arches over approximately 1,200 square feet within the Hall of Science’s Central Pavilion, designed by Wallace Harrison for the 1964 World’s Fair. The space includes a system of modular acoustical panels, display cases, and storage units that tie into the structure with a series of threaded perforations. Furniture units can be tucked under the structure if more floor space is needed for group activities.
With approximately two months for research and schematic design, one month for design development (including sourcing materials and securing sponsorship of some products), and two months for fabrication and installation, Maker Space was realized in a tight time frame and on a limited budget. Situ’s greatest challenge was to develop the design quickly enough that production and installation could begin even before all of the major details had being resolved. Designing flexibility into the structure gave Situ additional time to develop the project.
Maker Space was designed by Situ Studio and built by its sister company, Situ Fabrication. The teams worked fluidly between digital models and mock-ups from the very beginning of the project. Parametric models built in Grasshopper were quickly tested in full-scale mockups at all stages. The design embodies Situ’s practice as a whole: With a well-equipped fabrication shop adjacent to its offices, projects are frequently developed through iterative models, material studies, prototypes, and full-scale mock-ups. Design ideas are always tested through physical experimentation at the studio. Maker Space was no exception—at one point, a full-scale arch reached across the office and bolted into a pin-up wall covered in drawings and renderings of the construction. Watch a video of the final installation here:
From a programmatic standpoint, the Hall of Science wanted a space that enhanced science learning and collaboration in a workshop environment that did not feel like a classroom. Situ’s task was to create a structure that leant itself to a wide range of activities, from individual experiments to larger projects, without duplicating a school setting. To that end, the Maker Space structure is a pegboard that simultaneously supports the electrical, acoustical, storage, and display requirements of the space. It is flexible in case future uses call for reconfiguration. Similarly, the joinery of the interlocking arches is emphasized through the use of simple materials and exposed hardware. Openness and transparency were important aspects of the museum’s goal for the design. The structure encourages passive observation by curious visitors, who can glimpse activities from the outside.
Practically speaking, storage was another big requirement. The museum had to store and access all of the equipment and materials needed to run workshops inside Maker Space so that the environment could transition efficiently from hosting a bustling group of students to being a clean, quiet creative space. Double-sided units woven through the superstructure function as storage on the interior. Display units on the exterior now showcase work made by visitors within the workshop, which in the future will host sessions on topics ranging from soldering and circuitry to using open-source hardware.