In recent years, the concept of maker spaces has gained significant momentum in the United Kingdom, particularly in London. These collaborative workspaces provide individuals with access to tools, resources, and a supportive community, enabling them to bring their creative ideas to life. Maker spaces have become hubs of innovation, community involvement, and recycling, promoting a culture of DIY and hands-on learning. In this blog post, we will explore the history of maker spaces in the UK and London, their typical features, their role in community engagement and recycling, and conclude with an exciting new addition to the scene: Richmond Makerlabs.
The Birth of Maker Spaces: The origins of maker spaces can be traced back to the hackspaces and Fab Labs that emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These spaces were driven by the desire to provide individuals with access to tools and equipment that were previously only available to professionals or in institutional settings. As the maker movement gained momentum worldwide, the UK witnessed the emergence of its own vibrant maker culture.
Maker Spaces in London: London, being a hotbed of creativity and innovation, quickly became a hub for maker spaces. The city's diverse population and thriving creative industries created a fertile ground for the growth of these collaborative workspaces. Today, London boasts numerous maker spaces that cater to a wide range of interests and disciplines, from electronics and robotics to woodworking, pottery and textiles. One of the largest such spaces in London is Everyone’s Warehouse in Barking www.everyoneswarehouse.co . The key mantra for the maker space is that Everyone’s Warehouse is much like a public library or a park; essential for people to live and thrive and to learn and earn. Housed in a former industrial unit, Everyone’s Warehouse is one of the biggest shared open access workshops in the UK.
images courtesy of the Everyone's Warehouse website
Typical Features of Maker Spaces: Maker spaces typically provide a wide array of tools and equipment, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering stations, sewing machines, and woodworking tools. They offer flexible memberships that allow individuals to access these resources based on their needs, whether they require occasional use or regular access. Many maker spaces also provide training and workshops to help beginners develop the necessary skills to bring their ideas to life.
Community Involvement and Collaboration: One of the key drivers of maker spaces is their emphasis on community involvement. These spaces foster a sense of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among members, creating a supportive ecosystem that encourages innovation and creativity. Individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to exchange ideas, collaborate on projects, and provide feedback and support. Maker spaces often host events, meetups, and competitions, further strengthening the community bonds and facilitating networking opportunities.
Promoting Recycling and Sustainability: Maker spaces play a vital role in promoting recycling and sustainability by encouraging the repurposing and upcycling of materials and products. They provide a platform for individuals to create with a focus on reducing waste and environmental impact. Members can bring in materials that would otherwise end up in landfills and repurpose them into new, functional objects. From furniture made from reclaimed wood to jewelry crafted from recycled materials, maker spaces contribute to a circular economy and raise awareness about the importance of sustainable practices.
Key Things that make a great Maker Spaces:
Introducing Richmond Makerlabs: The maker space scene in London continues to evolve and expand, with new spaces constantly emerging. One of the newest additions will be the new Richmond Makerlabs, located in the heart of Ham in Richmond, London. Currently housed in a small caretakers unit (that does not allow room for growth of expansion) on the Ham Close estate, the new Richmond Makerlabs designed by WR-AP will be the UK’s first purpose-built makerspace. The Richmond MakerLabs is a member-run community workshop within the Ham United Group (HUG) who meet bi-weekly to ‘tinker, make, hack and be friendly’.
The new facilities will sit at the heart of the new Ham Close regeneration project and will include: Two workshops, one for laser cutting, computer work and electronics and a second one for woodwork and metalwork, alongside a dedicated kitchen, IT room and an area of outdoor space for external workbenches.
The new makerspace is also designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent rating, through the integration of sustainable technologies such as an optimised external fabric, careful orientation with due regard of daylight/sunlight, photovoltaic panels, natural ventilation and sustainable materials, i.e. responsibly sourced timber cladding.
One of the founding members of the Richmond Makerlabs had this to say about our involvement in the project:
"WR-AP did a really imaginative job in creating a new building for Richmond Makerlabs. Since then, we have had some meetings with Alice and Sean to discuss the internal fitting of the new workshops. Their knowledge of the requirements and their attention to detail has been invaluable." Ian Bowden
As we work towards a more circular economy and look to minimise our impact on the environment, the growth and potential for more makerspaces within our communities is becoming ever more viable and enticing for local authorities and developers to investigate to help meet our combined climate emergency targets as well as generate greater social cohesion within our communities. We envisage seeing a vast array of this type of space popping up all over the country in the coming years.
If you’d like to find out more about WR-AP’s knowledge and experience in helping communities develop a maker space get in touch with our Architect Alice at firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog has been written by Alice, whose main line of architectural curiosity lies with the development of social spaces and resilient homes, and how we can define better and more inclusive places for communities and individuals. You can read more about her here.