Green Fab Lab

Green Fab Lab

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8307-3.ch001


Green Fab Lab is nestled in the Catalonian area of Eastern Spain in the mountains surrounding the metropolis of Barcelona. Located on what once was a vacation and hunting ground for Spanish royalty, the Valldaura Estate, which houses the Green Fab Lab, sits on 130 hectares of forest. The site is part of a movement to be self-sufficient and sustainable, using locally sourced material. The current space is one of many Fab Labs in Barcelona and is part of the IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia), which is a world-renowned school of modern architecture. The space is about 2152 ft2 (200 m2), with a full complement of Fab Lab equipment and machines as well as a small bio space. Within the space, learning communities are often developed through the communication of students in the Fab Academy, Bio Academy, or Zero courses and local gurus in the space or in the community. This chapter explores the Green Fab Lab.
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That's a fundamental in all of it is to ... Yes, the facilities are there but it's not the facilities that give the answer. It's the people who use them, so they have to be the leaders of their own design. Otherwise, this idea of mass customization means nothing. It's from mass production to mass customization is to change some of what these facilities' offer. — Jonathan Minchin


Organization Background

Nested in the middle of 130 hectares of pine forest is the Green Fab Lab at Valldaura. The site sits on top of a hill surround by the Collserola Natural Park and is seemingly many miles away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Barcelona, Spain. In reality, Green Fab Lab is a short distance, about a 15- minute drive, from the downtown area and nestled in the pre-Pyrenees mountains, within sight of the Barcelona Montserrat where the famous monastery is located. The building that houses the Green Fab Lab is a restored hunting lodge from the 11th century, originally built by the Catalina Spanish kings and queens. The estate hosts 10 bedrooms over three floors with a kitchen and meeting area on the main floor, bedrooms upstairs, and fabrication areas in the basement. It was during the French Revolution that the monarchs, feeling threatened by the invading French army, gave the estate away to a non-royal family as a way of protecting it from the marauding French. Figure 1 is a view of the main building, approaching from the southwest.

Figure 1.

Outside of Valldaura and the Green Fab Lab


The estate was re-opened in 2014 and is now owned by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), which is also part of the international Fab Academy network led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jonathan Minchin is the director of the Green Fab Lab and provided a background on the relationship between Green Fab Lab, IAAC and its role within the city of Barcelona. IAAC is a nonprofit foundation that has operated for around 17 years and is organized into four departments; research, education, production, and outreach. The education department at IAAC offers several degrees including master’s degrees in advanced architecture, city and technology, and advanced interaction, as well as Ph.D. programs in the areas of InnoChain network, integrating building, physics for performance control, and small-scale robotic manufacturing for Large-Scale Buildings (IAAC, n.d.). The Green Fab Lab is part of the Valldaura Project for self-sufficiency located at the Collserola National Park.

According to Minchin, IAAC is considered to be in the top 10 architecture schools in the world. The Valldaura project director, Vicente Guallart, was the head architect of the city of Barcelona. Working together with Neil Gershenfeld of MIT and the mayor of Barcelona, they came up with a protocol for the city of Barcelona to essentially create and support local manufacturing within the city. It is an attempt to make Barcelona more self-sufficient in manufacturing and materials.

The model for the city of Barcelona and many other cities globally, according to Minchin, is to move from a model of products in and trash out (PITO) to a more sustainable model where data comes in and data goes out (DIDO) but the materials stay in one place. Minchin noted:

They have to stay in one place. This is a lot tighter, smart cities and sensible cities and self-sufficiency and sustainability within cities. The outcome of PITO to DIDO as an elected, legal protocol for the city of Barcelona meant that there was some investment that came from the city council and from the European Commission to set up a network of fab labs within the city of Barcelona ...

Within Barcelona there are a number of Fab Labs and makerspaces that have several different audiences and purposes. For example, another type of Fab Lab in the city are the Ateneus (Ateneu de Fabricació de les Corts), they are Fab Labs like the Fab Lab Barcelona but they have the responsibility to engage the public and local communities. Whereas Fab Lab Barcelona and Green Fab Lab are run as teaching and research laboratories. Within this large network, each node (Fab Lab, Makerspace, Ateneu) has a different audience that is engaged, but all the nodes in the network work together as a community. Green Fab Lab at Valldaura is a node in the network but also has the responsibility to teach about the park and natural landscape.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collserola National Park: National park just outside of Barcelona, Spain.

Green Fab Lab: A makerspace near Barcelona run by the IAAC.

Barcelona: Large city in the eastern Catalonia area of Spain.

Anarcho-Syndicalism: A worker’s movement to unite workers to fight for their interests.

DIDO: Data in and data out.

Valldaura Estate: Buildings that are a part of the Collserola National Park near Barcelona, Spain.

Catalan: An ethnic region in the northeastern area of Spain which includes Barcelona.

Vicente Guallart: Valldaura project director.

IAAC: Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia is a world-renowned school of modern architecture in Barcelona, Spain.

Neil Gershenfeld: Director of MIT’s Bits and Atoms Lab and Fab Labs.

Bio Academy: Bio-based learning network similar to the Fab Labs.

Bio Zero: Bio courses for beginners.

PITO: Products in and trash out.

Fab Academy: An international making course run by Neal Gershenfeld.

Ateneus: Ateneu de Fabricació de les Corts are Fab Labs with the responsibility to engage the public and local communities.

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