I think we can all agree that Boston is downright fabulous. Whether we’re talking about education, technology, innovation or sports, Boston can deservingly be described as fab. The New Urban Mechanics, though, are reinventing Boston by setting up a slew of aptly named FabLabs in hopes of enhancing the way we engage with urban life.
Civic FabLabs are community-powered prototype development centers that allow people to bring their ideas for urban innovation into fruition. Inspired, in part, by a similar initiative in Barcelona, the New Urban Mechanics are hoping to build an entire network of these spaces in Greater Boston so people can improve their community.
BostInno spoke with Nigel Jacobs, co-founder of the New Urban Mechanics, about his vision for FabLabs in and around Boston. His primary goal is to inspire a broader context for thinking about directing the future of the city.
“We want to encourage people to become builders, makers and entrepreneurs,” Jacobs said. “People will go into a FabLab environment and prototype what they’re visioning for their neighborhood.”
Jacobs was kind enough to provide us with some insightful examples for the kinds of products that are expected to emerge from FabLabs. As is typically the case for most aspects of life, sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective.
Take pizza and laundry, for example. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone created a viable solution that made it possible to open your car door without having to place either your piping hot pizza or pristine pants on the grungy roof of your car? Simple hooks that can be outfitted on street signs and lampposts could solve that brain-wracking conundrum.
But the New Urban Mechanics also want to build more in-depth elucidations, like a three-dimensional model of the city.
“A 3-D model of the city lets you see how your neighborhood looks in relation to the rest of the city,” explains Jacobs further. “Builders could create to-scale designs and implement them in the 3-D model. If they have modifications to roadways, they can just prototype them, add them to the 3-D model and move things around.”
Possibility abounds for municipal improvements that can be conceived in FabLabs. From hooks and 3-D models, to one-to-one scales of new street furniture to street signage, the only limitation is one’s imagination.
In essence, FabLabs spread the idea of a community led effort to build out the city. They’d also have the potential to afford access to different programs like 101-type courses that would bestow the right tools and information for prospective builders, developers and designers.
“We should be exploring how we enable the community to invent those new elements,” added Jacobs. “That’s just the beginning.”
Image via Matt Conti/NorthEndWaterfront.com