NExT Lab: New Experimental Technology Lab

Jas Johnston in collaboration with University Architect, Project Services, University of Melbourne

The New Experimental Technology Lab (NExT Lab) at the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne School of Design is a digital maker space – a new kind of workshop designed around the idea that innovation occurs through the freedom to experience, experiment and explore. Importantly, the lab was designed to not only provide a space to work, but also access to a consciously nurtured culture of innovation.

The space integrates a 3D-printing farm of 32 printers, augmented and virtual reality environments, 3D-scanning technology, and a programmable interactive LED installation. There is also room to run studios, seminars and support sessions, allowing people to experience and collaborate on new platforms.

The site is highly visible, enclosed within glass walls and flanked by busy pedestrian thoroughfares in the heart of the university campus. This presented an opportunity to rethink the idea of what a workshop is – typically hidden away and difficult to enter with strict training procedures. In contrast, the NExT Lab is open to everyone and always on display. It is a casual space that provides more than just hands-on access to new disruptive technologies in design. It was designed and purpose built to be highly adaptable and this flexibility allows for a spectrum of uses as well as varying levels of security, accessibility and participation.

The NExT Lab was designed by Jas Johnston in collaboration with the University Architect, Project Services, University of Melbourne to be dynamic, surprising and even playful, drawing attention in an unexpected way to the purpose of the space and engaging with a wider audience within and beyond the Melbourne School of Design.

Photography: Dan Hocking.