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Maker Space Opens in New York’s East Village

Article-Maker Space Opens in New York’s East Village

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New York City’s new maker space is fortified with 3D printers, robot arms, and virtual reality technology.

New York’s East Village has a considerable history of cutting-edge music and art. Now, these gritty streets will be home to emerging technology designed for makers. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art – a private college of architecture, art, and engineering in New York’s East Village – has announced the opening of a state-of-the-art maker space.

The emerging technology space was made possible through a $2 million grant from the IDC Foundation. Cooper students both remote and in-person (eventually) will get access to advanced equipment that includes 3D printers, robotic arms, and virtual-reality technology. The IDC Foundation’s Art, Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (AACE) Lab will support projects across Cooper’s three disciplines of architecture, art, and engineering.

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The AACE Lab at Cooper Union is a blend of older architecture and cutting-edge technology.

Cooper was awarded the funding to build an interdisciplinary maker space in 2018 after several departments collaborated on a grant proposal to the IDC Foundation, a New York-based charitable organization that provides scholarships, fellowships, and grants to educational institutions for students in the design, engineering, and construction fields.

Designed for Collaboration of Architecture, Art, and Engineering

The facility was designed to enable students to fabricate intricate components, artwork, prototypes, and models from a broad range of materials. Students will be able to use high-precision digital tools, including laser cutters, CNC routers, 3D printers, a waterjet cutting machine, a vinyl cutter, and a vacuum forming machine. “The main purpose of the AACE Lab is to provide a collaborative fabrication environment for Cooper’s entire student body,” said Harrison Tyler, the AACE Lab’s director. “This school-wide fabrication resource will provide space for work done by architects, artists, and engineers all working in the same environment.”

The AACE Lab is housed in Cooper’s iconic 161-year-old Foundation Building. Sam Anderson, a Cooper alumnus, and adjunct faculty member led the design effort to convert a former lobby space on the fourth floor into a high-tech maker facility embodying the spirit of cross-disciplinary collaboration. The lab adjoins Cooper’s Art and Architecture Sculpture Shop, giving students the flexibility to work with both newer digital fabrication tools and traditional woodworking and metalworking machinery. “We really wanted it to have a feeling of openness and inclusion so that people felt very comfortable coming in,” said Anderson.

One of the design challenges for the team was marrying the ethos of a leading-edge, all-school workshop to the historic space of the Foundation Building. In 1975 the entire interior of the building was reconstructed by architect John Hejduk, former dean of Cooper’s school of architecture. The AACE Lab’s glass partition and much of its technical infrastructure were designed to preserve the existing geometry of the space while reimagining how it could serve students. “We have a lot of reverence for John Hejduk and what he did for the Foundation Building,” said Anderson. “We felt it was really important to be respectful of Hejduk’s original design but at the same time not to just copy what we imagine he would do.”

Rob Spiegel has covered manufacturing for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include automation, supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cybersecurity. For 10 years, he was the owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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