Ideas require space. Produced through a lengthy process or a creative spark, ideation and innovation are intimately tied to our surrounding environment. Whether seeking a library for study or a workshop for creation, it is our context which helps derive new ideas and generate novel problem-solving. While spaces have been designed for scientific research, education and training, few typologies have explored creative innovation and its spatial nature. If ideas require space, what kind of architecture begets innovation? Exploring private and public spaces, as well as daylight and natural connections, what elements foster a culture of invention and playful creation?
Exploring these questions through built work, the following collection showcases creative innovation labs across the globe. While the projects are made with varied programs and scales, they are all housed within industrial settings — spaces that inherently recall manufacturing and production. Building off this raw aesthetic, the labs are made with diverse material assemblies that delineate space for contemplation, prototyping and critical thinking. Together, these projects showcase an industrial framework for rethinking innovation and invention:
Sited in San Francisco’s Mission District, DREAM:shop provides space for innovation and experiments. Formed as an event space with a minimalist and industrial aesthetic, the project uses reclaimed myrtle wood, light tracks and glass curtains to embrace daylight and delineate spaces. Housed within a former auto repair garage, the design includes an office, laboratory, event space and workshop.
Created to showcase Seattle’s culture of innovation, the Bezos Center was designed around discovery and interaction. Featuring multimedia exhibits and an “Idea Lab,” the project invites visitors to move around and engage with a narrative of Seattle’s creative history. The design includes a photo booth, a 3D “Patent Tree” and a large graphic novel that unveils different stories.
The Thornton Academy transforms existing campus facilities into new media classrooms and library space. Combining space for stacks and a robotics laboratory, the project features areas that can double as study hall spaces.
Housed inside the former Vogel Chevrolet Showroom in midtown Sacramento, The Shop was created as a “Design Thinking” lab. Building off the modernist qualities of the existing space, the new design explored the addition of rapid prototyping and corrugated structures. The final design repurposes the mid-century building as a new space for innovation.
The Glass Gallery – Shenkar College (The Kadar Media Lab Building) by Geotectura, Ramat Gan, Israel
The Glass Gallery was created as one of the multiple labs and workshops within an old industrial building from the 1920s. The main element in the project — the floating glass and steel space — was created without touching or damaging the surrounding silicate walls. Including space for 3D printing, a plastic workshop and computer gaming lab, the new design respects the historic fabric while reimagining its interior spaces.
Made to house a variety of programs with a limited budget, the Impact Hub blends an office space with a business incubator and innovation lab. Created around the concept of a “factory,” the project was designed with an industrial aesthetic and flexible programming. Reusing steel, the raw building slab and cargo pallets, the project was built with recycled materials and sustainable assemblies.
Shepley Bulfinch’s design for the Harvard Innovation Lab included the transformation of a former television studio into a dynamic space for learning and research. Fostering a culture of exploration, the project includes classrooms, business-incubator space and communal areas for support and socialization. Built with a “garage-chic” aesthetic, the design establishes a rich space for innovation within an industrial setting.
The PCH Innovation Hub was built to capitalize on an existing structure’s open plan to maximize transparency and daylight. Made with training rooms, conference areas and prototyping laboratories, the project was designed to encourage innovation. Built with a simple material palette featuring painted steel, oak and glass, the new hub transforms the former building into an efficient and distinctive structure.
A large new facility built for the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, this project features space for mixed media workshops, offices, meeting rooms and 30 artist studios. Workshop areas open onto a shared yard and external workspace wrapped in Orsogril screens, while the buildings themselves are arranged around a new public space for art. Outside, a promenade links different spaces and surrounds the project perimeter.
Conversion Launchlabs was designed as a multifunctional wooden structure within an industrial setting. Located in the main assembly hall of the former Burckhardt machine factory, the project was designed to accommodate different programmatic functions using laminated veneer lumber. Elevated on wooden beams to provide ground-floor flexibility, the design also features a roof-deck space for recreational activities.