Creating a space for Birmingham’s makers

by Emily Lowrey  • 

Bruce Lanier leans forward and uses both hands to talk about a Maker Space - a shared building equipped with tools that designers, dreamers and builders need to create.  It’s a concept that he and a handful of Birminghamians, including his colleagues at Standard Creative, an architecture firm in Avondale, have been researching for years. 

“We’re going to have a place where people who want to build, but may have limited space at their home,” says Lanier, “or maybe don’t use a tool enough to own one can come to Maker Space to do that.”

Lanier, who is an architect, is no stranger to business planning.  He owns Standard Creative, and on his MacBook you’ll find Excel data models where he’s been busy forecasting the application of the concept here in Birmingham.  “We could have three scenarios,” says Lanier.  “An hourly drop-in rate, a basic membership model for access to the space and a premium model for professionals.” 

Maker Space needs your assistance to help plan the space so it suits the needs of Birmingham’s creative community.  If you have 90 seconds, please take the online survey

Photo: Huntsville Maker Local 256 member Jennifer Paulson laser etched her electronics at the shared space.  Courtesy of Paulson.

The research has taken Lanier to Portland, Oregon, where the ADX Maker Space operates.  On ADX’s website, you’ll find courses that that range from “Sewing an Electronic Garment” to “Intro to the Metal Lathe.”  The group’s mission is constantly evolving, but always focused on design and prototyping. 

He’s also visited 3rd Ward, a Maker Space in New York City.  “Each Maker Space concept is a little different,” says Lanier.  “3rd Ward has an amazing photography studio space, so that’s something we’re wondering about for Birmingham too.  We think about things like how it would be used by the community.  This all hinges on building an engaged community.”

Next week, he’ll visit Nashville, Tennessee’s Maker Space to view first-hand projects that may work well for Birmingham.  “We’re wrapping up our initial research phase after this visit,” says Lanier.  “We’d like to be ready to open sometime in 2013.” 

Photo: Philadelphia’s Maker Space focuses on woodworking.  Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Woodworkers.

Each Maker Space is a bit different.  Some are housed in universities or even elementary schools while others work out in the traditionally non-academic world.  You’ll find nonprofit and even for profit models too.  “We’ve decided that the nonprofit model isn’t for us.  We’d like to work with the community so we can adapt quickly to their needs, so we’ll be using a for profit model for Birmingham’s Maker Space.” 

There are already a few dozen Maker Spaces in the world, and many work collaboratively.  Ireland’s Maker Space recently participated in a hacker cupcake challenge that sent a cupcake more than 1,700 miles to Buffalo, New York’s Maker Space.  The “challenge” part was getting the weight and packaging right. 

Photo: Portland’s ADX offers a course where students learn to carve a boat from a log.  Photo courtesy of Portland ADX.

One Maker Space project challenged elementary school students to redesign their entire school day.  You can find the results and free teacher kit for the project here

For more information on the Birmingham Maker Space, contact Bruce Lanier at 205-222-8226.  To view a list of Maker Spaces all over the world, visit this website.

TAGGED: architecture, co-op space, creatives, incubator, industrial design, innovation depot, maker space, shared space, social venture

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Magic City Post will pause for a moment starting at 8:30am on Friday, December 21st in remembrance of victims of gun violence in Connecticut and also here in our own community. By the end of 2012, at least 56 Birminghamians will have died in gun-related homicides. We pray for peace, love and healing for all.