Spotlight on Maker Spaces

Maker spaces are changing the way learning is done on college and university campuses. Rather than simply lecturing, professors are able to engage students from a wide range of majors with projects in these lab/classroom spaces that emphasize student creativity and innovation. David Moos, principal at Coscia Moos Architecture in Philadelphia, PA, is well versed in these new spaces for learning and provided some insights to College Planning & Management regarding their uses and growing popularity.

Q. Maker spaces are a big topic in facility design and designing for student engagement. What do you think led to these spaces becoming so popular and prevalent?

A. Our culture is finally letting go of the preeminence of cognition over making, and the two processes are now seen as integral to one another. Whereas design and thinking were once placed at the front of a one-way process resulting in a built form, we now understand that the act of making itself informs the way in which we think. This new way of thinking is further reflected throughout our culture today as people try to reconnect themselves with the tangible physical world that surrounds them. Students now demand that creative and physical interaction with their topics of study be integrated into the curriculum.

Q. What are some of the most common misconceptions about maker spaces? Are there design elements that are overlooked?

A. The most important design element of any space is flexibility. Built into the concept of the maker space is the idea that making informs thinking. Therefore it is natural to expect the desired configuration space to change over time. It is also important that the maker space be designed for both making and presenting. Many universities partner with corporate or other institutional entities to fund research, host competitions, or otherwise showcase the work. Presentation format need not be formal, but adequate consideration should be made to support large numbers of outside visitors.

Q. Which subjects are best suited to being taught maker spaces? Is it better to design them with one subject in mind, or is it always interdisciplinary?

A. Engineering schools have led the maker space movement and probably will be the home of most new maker spaces created in the near future. However, in the spirit of making informed decisions, the concept of the maker space could be applicable to even the most theoretical pursuits. An interdisciplinary approach is preferred, and in fact is often the driving force behind funding such a capital improvement.

Q. Are there any changes on the horizon when it comes to designing maker spaces (equipment, design elements, etc.)?

A. Maker spaces are topic specific, so pending changes really depend upon the topic of study they serve. Again, it’s important to be flexible, and provide adequate power, ventilation, and lighting to accommodate a variety of possible future uses.