07 Jul 17

The mutated Lab: experimenting with physical and digital networks

Parallel Platforms: Matching Collaborative Networks

Social networks and technology platforms are transforming scientific research in the same way that they’ve transformed other industries. Scientists and other researchers may increasingly collaborate online, but they also need physical space that supports team-based research, shared learning, virtual participation, and multi-platform communication in order to truly collaborate. That’s fueling demand for innovative lab typologies, incubators, and project acceleration spaces that connect virtual and physical work. The shift echoes trends in other work places, where new spatial typologies are evolving to support creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.


Makerspaces are becoming a critical platform in enabling students and researchers to gather, connect, and collaborate beyond the realm of cyberspace. The demand for offline dialogue has spawned some 5,500 makerspaces, hackerspaces and innovation hubs worldwide, according to Ananse Group. Such spaces not only supplement digital collaboration, they enable it through video monitors, networked labs, multimedia meeting rooms, and smart infrastructure.

The makerspace represents a consistent new spatial typology across the health, science, workplace, and education sectors. As with other workspace interiors, the design minimizes individual workspace in favour of communal areas to gather, collaborate, relax, and meet up. That includes formal space for meetings and training, as well as shared facilities such as beverage stations that encourage impromptu encounters. Extensive technology links, smart boards, video, and other communications tools connect the physical space to the virtual network, enabling teams to securely collaborate and work in parallel from any part of the global network.

The typology is equally relevant in the education space, as science, technology, engineering, and math learning has long been a collaborative pursuit. Makerspaces enable students and teachers to engage in a more active learning process that encourages experimentation and social interaction while simultaneously enabling virtual connectivity for knowledge sharing and project management.  As in the workplace and social settings, the division between offline and online communication is blurred. Instead of distracting from the physical learning experience, technology enhances it.

Linking Physical & Digital Spatial Lab Typologies

  • Linking physical & digital spatial lab typologies.
  • Space is optimized for communal knowledge sharing and project management, adopting elements from creative workspace and tech hub design.
  • Ubiquitous connectivity and virtual tools throughout, bridging digital and physical work.

Macquarie University Spatial Experience

The site brings together a mix of open-plan workspaces, lounge areas, flexible furniture, and new technologies to encourage collaborative learning. The facility includes an open-space meeting area, a gaming centre, lounges, small meeting rooms, individual booths, communal tables, quiet zones, recharge stations, and other transformable space. Lightweight furniture and flexible design allows for a variety of configurations that adapt the space to events, project work, multimedia presentations, labs, presentations, and other work.