What’s Brenchie’s Lab?
I’ve been wanting to write something about what we’ve been doing at Brenchie’s Lab in Aruba, but I’ve had a hard time making time for it… until now. So here’s a bit of an explanation around some of the choices we made in setting up the space.
Brenchie’s Lab is a digital fabrication space situated at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (AFAD) Aruba. The space was funded by UNOCA and developed through a partnership between Metabolic Foundation and AFAD. The space takes its name after Brenchie’s Hardware Store that used to be located in the same building, to position the lab within that local tradition of Making in Aruba.
Conceptually, it is essential for us that that the Lab functions as an engine for the democratization of technology, but finding a funding model that allows us to give this service freely is hard. The way we have been able to balance this is by having the lab open to the public on Mondays, and the rest of the week the lab is used by the students of AFAD.
Self directed learning is central to this concept of democratizing technology. Brenchie’s Lab isn’t a school or a factory– it doesn’t aim to give classes or make products. It’s more like a library. The lab manager, like a librarian, points you in the right direction when you come in with a project in mind. The computers at the lab, like the books at the library, have all the needed information. The lab manager can suggest the right software or machine for your project, and show you some tutorials, but making something out of the available resources is up to you.
Like reading, we believe making is for everyone. It is not reserved for the IT guy or the engineer. We want to empower people to design, make, fix and improve the things that matter to them, the things they dream about, and the things they need. To move from being a passive consumer, to an active maker that molds the world around us. Brenchie’s Lab wants to work in the intersection between art and innovation, or art-science-technology. Many artists explore social and environmental issues with their work, and we see making as a form of Art as a way of communicating, exploring, and hands-on learning that is universally recognized and unlimited in potential.
Next to digital fabrication and self-directed learning, Brenchie’s Lab also wants to experiment with alternative business models. We aim to be neither free nor priced. We want to let users know the cost of the service, but have open access independent of their capacity to pay through a pay-what-you-can model. These concepts will need to be experimented with and are not clear cut. But it’s okay that it’s not comfortable or familiar, and we hope that the space is challenging and exciting and inspiring and that, in this way, it can facilitate a different way of thinking– solution oriented, action based, keen on prototyping, and always improving.