The Heterodox Pedagogy: Hackerspaces and Collaborative Education in Design

  • Mitchell Joachim
  • Maria Aiolova
Part of the Arts, Research, Innovation and Society book series (ARIS)


Design is frequently regarded as the act of generating something new, something that didn’t entirely exist before. Scientific research, as it’s typically defined, is for generating new knowledge based on long standing paradigms. Academic proponents of research through design maintain that the process should follow the established method of unique image and object production. This is essentially the same as the art and practice of design itself. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is a movement to adopt the systematic research methodology that is used in science. Today, designers are still educated to be idiosyncratic and summarily reject most precedents and/or produce an obscure signal to the past. Conversely, within many scientific based endeavors, researchers work in robust collaborative environments. They incrementally build on prior experiments and publications. In science you learn to replicate preceding efforts and disrupt the limits by an order of magnitude. Designers never copy; almost everything is reset from scratch. Imagine an architect exactly replicating Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum with the modest addition of improved ramp sizes. That would be an irrefutable act of design failure or even plagiarism. Conversely, if a biologist replicates the work of another biologist in a lab and makes a reasonable measurable improvement, they are rewarded. Design is not simply a creative process; it is also another form of a focused scientific endeavor. Like science, design is experimental, but in a way that prominently recognizes invention. Our current research attempts to establish new forms of knowledge at the confluences of design and science activity.

Using a collaborative approach between these disciplines and the available cutting-edge technologies, designers can to offer unorthodox solutions to a number of current problems. Innovation, after all, doesn’t happen in isolation. It needs a charged zone that connects exceptional cross-disciplinary activities. It also needs spaces of focused heterodoxy, often identified as hackerspaces. The open network of these spaces and their members presents a critical understanding of invention and access to knowledge through sharing. This pioneering community is spreading around the globe, where innovation flourishes in a host of unusual spaces. Although relatively young, this movement enables relationships between design and science that generates the unconventional inventions urgently needed in the age of climate crisis and natural resource scarcity.

Our goal is to invent an alternative design process to foster designs that are interdependent with the natural world. The study of biology and synthetic biology is essential to creating connections between designers and the environment. It can also open the possibilities of new solutions to the current environmental crisis. We created ONE Lab as an independent school for design and science that moves toward this necessity.

The whole idea of ONE Lab originated in the Metropolitan Exchange (MEx) Building. Often described as a hackerspace, the building is full of extremely diverse collection of companies and individuals, brought together by their inventiveness, efficiency, and competence. Terreform ONE was the first design practice to start a biological laboratory in the building, which further developed through collaboration with Genspace, another nonprofit organization devoted to access to biotechnology. More recently, we created New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an extremely charged interdisciplinary zone for free interaction and cross-pollination of ideas.

This chapter is comprised of three parts that explore the different aspects of the alternative design process practiced by Terreform ONE. Part I, BioMap City of 11 Billion People in 2110, offers an example of our most recent investigation in the crossover of design and biology. Part II, Hackerspaces and Synthetic Biological Design, focuses on open collaborative spaces and their users to form a new understanding of invention in design. Part III, The Future of Collaborative Education: Global Architecture and Design, follows the evolution of ONE Lab into a global educational platform for collective learning.


Global architecture Design research Urbanism Hacker spaces Collaborative education Study abroad Synthetic biology Ecology Future cities Terreform ONE 

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Terreform ONEBrooklynUSA
  3. 3.Global Architecture and Design, CIEEPortlandUSA

Personalised recommendations