DIY cities of tomorrow

Fab City
Catalonia (Barcelona)

Today more people live in cities than not, so it’s about time they became more environmentally sound. Fab City’s initiative aims to build a more sustainable and inhabitable new world – collectively – through opening digital fabrication makerspaces in the hearts of cities, towns and villages. Within, people will be able to grow and make almost anything.

This collaborative effort started in Barcelona, home to one of the leading laboratories of the worldwide Fab Labs network. Together, Fab Lab Barcelona, IAAC, MIT’s CBA and the Fab Foundation want to assemble whole productive ecosystems in every neighbourhood so inhabitants worldwide can share knowledge – solving problems with local materials and expertise, setting up new businesses and education schemes, and transforming us from consumers to producers. 

There are now 550 Fab Labs in the world. “Fab City now has 16 members, including Detroit, Paris and Bhutan, the only country that has a happiness index for their citizens,” explains Founder Tomás Diez.

Technologies include digital manufacturing such as 3D printing, smart networks encouraging renewable energy, electrical mobility rethinking the car, urban permaculture and more intelligent infrastructures: “You fabricate your dinner in your kitchen every day with tools,” says Jon Minchin, Coordinator of the Green Fab Lab beyond the pines in Valldaura, Catalunya. “In the future you won’t just have a kitchen, but a fabrication room. Scan your foot and a shoe will materialise exactly to your specification. This what we call the Third Industrial Revolution – where anywhere can become a factory.” 

In his book The Self-Sufficient City, Barcelona’s Chief Architect Vicente Guallart develops the idea that we are transitioning towards giving the public information and the development of new production tools that will redefine and reshape our reality: “The regeneration of cities following the model of connected self-sufficiency can only be meaningful if people are allowed to have more control over their own lives and more power as members of a social network.” If successful, this could have wider social and economic effects, such as the emergence of a new path out of unemployment.

In 2017 the Fab Lab will launch the Fab City Dashboard where citizens, civic leaders, digital fabrication laboratories and makers can understand the existing resilience of their cities and how they are having an impact on it.

Fab City was mapped by Tomás Diez in his AtlasChart Top 6. The Director of Fab Lab Barcelona at IAAC transports us from 3D printing prosthetics in refugee camps to the greenest school on earth.

Submitted by

Lisa Goldapple, Editor, Atlas of the Future (09 October 2015)

Project leader

Tomás Diez, Neil Gershenfeld and Vicente Guallart

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