At the very core of betahaus lie the principles of openness, collaboration, and the sharing of resources among coworkers. These principles are, of course, hardly limited to traditional forms of desk-work. Open Design City, located directly behind the betahaus| café, is a space in which the principles of coworking are applied to physical construction and design projects.
Founded in April 2010, and incorporated into the betahaus shortly thereafter, Open Design City provides a space for creative people – from designers to programmers, artists to activists, or anyone else – to share ideas, resources, and skills with which they can physically realise their own visions. Open Design City has built itself upon the founding principles of hackerspaces and FabLabs, and can be described as a “makerlab/hackerspace/fablab” – a space in which people gather and share resources, ideas, skills, and knowledge in the process of creating something together.
Tom Spoorendonk has been the manager of Open Design City since August 2011. He explains some of the basics, and gives us an idea of what exactly takes place here, and what one can do in this space.
1. What exactly is the Open Design City? How would you, personally, define it?
The Open Design City is a co-working lab, somewhat like a FabLab, except it isn’t limited to digital production. There’s a lot of hands-on work going on here too – laser-cutting, sawing, hammering, soldering, and so on. We do programming and prototyping as well.
2. What can one do at ODC? What kinds of people can use the space?
All kinds of people work here – we have graphic designers, upcyclers, recyclers, stop-motion photographers, theatre design – you name it! I myself am involved in woodworking and carpentry. There are also companies that prototype their products here. Of course, you don’t need to be involved in any of these fields to be able to work in ODC. All betahaus members are welcome to work here.
3. There are many tools available for use in here. Who can use them, and how much does it cost?
Members pay half-price if they wish to rent a tool. Non-members pay slightly more, yet the prices are still quite low – 3 Euros an hour for many tools. We have a few more specialised tools, like a CNC router and a 3D printer, that were actually built by some of our members here. Anyone interested in using these tools can contact the people in charge of them.
4. Who are some of the people who are working at ODC now, and what do they do?
Right now we’re building a bike that generates electricity. This is a project that can be applied to several other fields as well – the concept of generating power simply by pedaling.
5. You regularly hold workshops. What are some of the workshops you’ve held in the past?
We just held a screen-printing workshop, which happens regularly. We also hold Arduino workshops, where people can learn about open-source electronics programming. The Design Thinking workshop was one of the biggest ones we’ve held. Then there is Trash of the Month, where you can learn how we can use materials we normally would throw away. Finally, there’s the Lastenfahrrad Project, which shows you how to turn your bike into a cargo bike, reducing car-dependence.
6. Finally what do you expect for ODC in the future?
More regular workshops, more people coming in – there’s already a community group working here, but I see the potential for way more people to come in here regularly for a short period of time. Students, for example, who may need more advanced tools than what they have at their schools.