Authors: Marion Real, Guillem Camprodon, Jean Luc Pierite

Fab Lab Barcelona, a department of the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Cataluña, takes part in the Reservist project and is appealing to share with us some key insights on the roles of makers and designers in the development of the Reservist network. 

What are the key vision and areas of expertise Fab Lab Barcelona bringing to the Reservist project?  

Fab Lab Barcelona is part of the Fab Lab network which is gathering around 2000 fab labs around the world and that unites a large number of  “Makers”, renowned for their ability to design and make almost anything in small-scale environments thanks to digital fabrication technologies and an open-source mindset. 

For more than 2 decades, fab labs have been playgrounds for prototyping any artifacts at the intersection of electronics, computer science and engineering from artistic to more scientific explorations. People are used to coming inside the fab labs to learn, create and share with their peers and mentors, fostering the re-appropriation of craft techniques and digital technologies, and innovating collectively from the bottom-up through design and social experiments. Makers are sharing common values and a sense of activism for bridging the silos and making technologies less alienating but more accessible to citizens. 

Fab Lab Barcelona has supported the consolidation of maker networks, through the expansion of educational programmes, the co-development of global community platforms and the diffusion of new imaginaries for alternative lifestyles and more locally-productive cities, like the Fab City model.

For a few years, the platform of Distributed Design has been developing and promoting the connection between designers, makers and the market through shared publications and community events. The platform supports the incubation of new design practices and reveals a much more mature figure of the makers, seen as key creative and responsible practitioners for re-shaping the future, being COLLABORATIVE, SUSTAINABLE, OPEN, ECOSYSTEMIC.

What were the key lessons learned about the makers’ roles during the Pandemic?

During Covid-19, especially during the months of lock-downs, the makers and their environment have reacted quickly to propose solutions for a diverse range of products, medical and protective equipment included. In a survey of the Fab Foundation reaching out to 65 labs, 43 product designs have been registered, among them 23 face shields, 2 gowns, 3 mask clips, incubation boxes, facemasks, a door opener, a valve for ventilation machines, a mask holder, an acrylic partition board and a stretcher respiratory connector. 

The combination of locally distributed equipment of fabrication sharing designs through global open-source platforms and the solidarity inside the community has shown an important capacity of resilience for this type of emergency crisis. 

Thus, fab labs and maker spaces have contributed to the provision of local design and manufacturing services. Makers and designers have contributed to the local productive ecosystems, responding to local urgent demands using their connected infrastructure to manage productions and logistics in cooperation with other stakeholders, from hospitals to public/private institutions.

While a bunch of promising practices was emerging and important gaps were identified to sustain such practices from the maker movement: 

  • Most of the work realized by makers was voluntarily based and thus could increase economical difficulties in a longer-term perspective. 
  • Most of the time, the processes of product certifications were not compatible with actual maker practices, thus such products cannot be accepted by social and public organizations delivering them onsite.
  • Cooperations with other entities relied on the local contexts and could have been damaged by a lack of transparency, and cultural or political divergences. 

To get to know more about maker response to the pandemic crisis, we recommend you to read the various examples and testimonies that have been collected in a book entitled “Viral Design”, downloadable for free. 

How will the Fab Lab Network be engaged in the Reservist network? 

Local fab labs as interfaces between makers, citizens, and public and private stakeholders could play a more systematic role to support local policies of territorial resiliency and take part in solidarity and humanitarian networks, by connecting, micro-manufacturing, and facilitating knowledge sharing around techniques.  Within the Reservist project, Fab Lab Barcelona wants to build upon the Covid-19 experiences and open space of debates on how the interventions of makers during emergency situations could be sustained. This by:

  • Designing and testing in cooperation with industrials and research certification centers
  • Sharing the open-source philosophy inside an industrial network
  • Creating synergies with fab labs connecting the Reservist demands and local equipment and resources through the platforms and make. works.
  • Promoting design practices and training materials on “How to adopt a Reservist mindset and create local resilience”

Keep posted – Listen and participate in the Resilient Makers Stories

In the following months, Fab Lab Barcelona will host a series of conversations and workshops, open to the public, to better envision the potentialities of the creative ecosystem of local makers and designers to anticipate and react to current and future crises. 

The “Resilient Makers stories” will invite a range of practitioners with diverse backgrounds to share their personal experiences of responding to moments of crisis and will collectively build a shared roadmap for supporting the emergence of a network of Reservist maker cells and cultivating a resilient, responsive distributed design community.