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Taylor Record
October 17, 2017

On makerlabs, unconventional coworking, and betahaus | Barcelona: An Interview with Pedro Pineda

Barcelona just got a little bit better. This week, we caught up with Pedro Pineda, one of the guys behind betahaus | Barcelona, and the co-founder and experience designer for TDMC and El Pinito. He’s sharing what inspired him to co-open a betahaus in Barcelona and insight into his most creative projects yet.

Hey, Pedro! Can you tell me what you were doing at betahaus | Berlin before you moved to Barcelona?

“When I moved to Berlin I knew that I wanted to do something with design, but design as a tool and in an more open way. So at that time, there were two main projects that I got involved in – the MakerLab and Enable Berlin -- which were both having betahaus as a base.

MakerLab is a nomadic makerspace dedicated to the exploration of making. It was also the project which influenced the creation of betahaus’ open makerspace on the ground floor, then called Open Design City, which later turned into betahaus Academy. The initial idea was a nomad space where people could create workshops from scratch, using their own tools, or where people could learn how to make stuff so that they could do it by themselves after.

Enable Berlin was a platform for participatory design, which focused on solving city challenges. It allowed citizens to design their city. Brainstorm on city problems, then find solutions in a collective way. These two projects could happen at betahaus because it was open for it. betahaus | Berlin had so much open space, it was like black paper to propose things and try things out.”

These two projects could happen at betahaus because it was open for it. betahaus | Berlin had so much open space, it was like black paper to propose things and try things out.

So what came next that inspired you to co-open betahaus | Barcelona?

"I started to work on betahaus | Barcelona because the guys at betahaus | Berlin asked me to create content and help bringing the "betahaus" experience to Barcelona. However, when I got to Barcelona, it felt more like a long term thing. I felt that we could do some very good work. The new Barcelona team (Jordi, Marcos, Edu and me) complemented each other well, and so we became partners. I brought my experience working at betahaus | Berlin, and this along with my design experience and workshop knowledge helped to shape betahaus | Barcelona from within. At the moment, I am a shareholder and co-founder of betahaus | Barcelona, but from 2013 till 2016, I was also the designer.”

Terrace seating at betahaus | Barcelona

TMDC is your shared machine shop offering materials and assistance to help makers produce their products. El Pinito, on the other hand, is a house in Tenerife designed for both long and short term stays and coworking. How did you come up with these ideas? Are they related to each other?

“Well, TMDC was in my mind since Open Design City. I thought I had an idea for a model that hadn’t been tried yet, and i just wanted to put it out there to see how the public would react to it. When I came to Barcelona and saw that there was such a big need for spaces with tools, I thought it would be the right setting to start it up. First we tried within betahaus, but slowly realized that it would have to have its own space in order to work. So, here we are, testing our assumptions!

El Pinito is a bit different. This idea came to me as I was living in Berlin, because every year I would spend a month in Tenerife and work from there. I thought it was such an amazing idea, to be able to work from a totally different setting, away from the city and close to the mountains and the ocean. I thought it was the right time for this project, because the idea of co-living and nomadism is well-received by many, and because there was a team of youngsters interested in taking on the project. Without them, it would be just an idea because I can’t move to Tenerife yet, and they are there, taking care of the space and developing it, and making it a reality. My role here is to design new spaces, consult on the strategy and give them guidance. At the end of the day, Nora, Alba, Rian and Aurelio are the ones doing the hard work.”

‍Coworkers at El Pinito in Tenerife

You call yourself an experience designer. Can you tell us more about what this means. What do you think is the impact of a physical space on productivity/creativity? What are small things that small companies/entrepreneurs can do to improve their workspaces?

“Similar to a UX designer, I try to think of the user journey through a space or activity. I develop not only the space and what fills it, but also what might happen in a space in order to achieve an specific experience. In my opinion, experience is everything. Walking through street is an experience, so when Iam talking about designing an experience, I am not talking about creating something extraordinary. I just mean consciously creating a specific experience to achieve a specific result through people’s experience.

But let me get back to your question. The design of the space will influence people behavior at work, and therefore their productivity and creativity. I think the question is a bit broad because it could be influenced in so many ways. A space can influence everything from how much coworkers can concentrate or how much they enjoy being there, and therefore how happy they are at work. How much and how they interact with other people is also a very important point.

What I would suggest in general is that people look beyond “productivity”and instead focus on what it takes to make their workers happy at work. They want to choose where to work and in general you see more people that want to identify with their company and what they do in that company. The space is a key aspect to it. Another thing, specially to foster creativity, is to generate a space that people see as their own while working in it. I would for example create spaces that are not too perfect or finished, because people feel that they can’t touch things. I would rather empower people to take initiative and, for example, bring their own plants. Finally, I would look at how to create space for people to meet and for people to relax. Create a space that people feel like spending time in. Why not have something like an outdoor area with a sauna where people can go after work?”

It sounds like you’re a serial entrepreneur. What are your biggest challenges with this?

"My biggest challenge is finding a way to delegate projects to the right people at the right time. I love to start things, but I have a hard time running them. I would love to find a way to be able to concentrate on what I do best, which is the concept, the strategy, and developing the product experience, by delegating the day-to-day operations to somebody that loves making them run smoothly even more!"

Where do you find inspiration? Can you share something that you’re really into right now?

“Everywhere? For me, I need to leave blank spaces. Try to not fill my agenda with activities, but leave space to wander around and find unexpected things, or meet unexpected people. Sometimes as an entrepreneur, this is very difficult. I am trying very hard to create those blank spaces again. At the moment, I am mostly interested in body movement (dance, sexuality, non verbal communication) and also in sounds and rituals.

And of course, professionally I’m really into the development of TMDC since its a shared machine shop that works like coworking for people who build things. I’m currently most interested in exploring how sharing economies can be taken further.”

Finally, You describe your target group as LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), which is a very niche market. Can you tell us more about what type of people they ARE and what theY value? What's some advice you can share to other startups targeting this market?

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