Arts / Coworking / Manufacturing

Why is a European car company building a makerspace in Greenpoint?

A/D/O will be something of an informal R&D lab for Mini.

A/D/O hosted tours for Open House New York last weekend. (Photo by April Joyner)

A/D/O, the 23,000 square foot upcoming makerspace for designers in Greenpoint, hasn’t finished construction just yet. But this past weekend, the public was able to get a sneak peek at the facility during Open House New York. The space also served as the venue for the event’s launch party, held the previous Thursday.
It’s definitely still a raw space. Here’s the room that will serve as its studio, which will have dedicated space for member designers who pay a fee to reserve a seat.

The future home of the Studio at A/D/O.

The future home of the Studio at A/D/O. (Photo by April Joyner)

Once completed, the studio will have 24 seats for designers of all stripes, from hardware products to graphic design, A/D/O managing director Nate Pinsley told Technical.ly. Membership rates haven’t been set yet, but most likely, members will be encouraged to stay for at least three to six months, he said. Members will also have access to A/D/O’s prototyping lab, which will include 3D printers and laser cutters.
Here’s what the studio will look like once it’s finished.
The studio at A/D/O will include 24 dedicated seats for members.

The studio at A/D/O will include 24 dedicated seats for members. (Courtesy image)

The main lobby of A/D/O will be open to the public. It will serve as a free, drop-in space for visitors to do work — or simply chill out. The lobby features a skylight that will include a strategically0placed mirror, which will allow anyone standing underneath to get good views of both the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges.
A/D/O will include a restaurant, a joint venture between Michelin-starred chefs Claus Meyer, the cofounder of Copenhagen restaurant Noma and Fredrik Berselius, the owner of Williamsburg restaurant Aska. Both are known for their New Nordic cuisine, and A/D/O’s restaurant will be in that vein, though it will be much more accessible than Aska’s $215-a-pop tasting menu.
(An aside: New York City, and Brooklyn in particular, has of late become a draw for Meyer, who has recently opened up a food hall in Grand Central Terminal and a bakery in Williamsburg. In addition to the A/D/O restaurant, he’s also planning to launch a restaurant and culinary school in Brownsville, which itself is home to a new cafe and innovation center.)
The whole project – the restaurant, the public space, the accelerator with manufacturing and smart cities bent — reminds us of the massive effort to redevelop the Navy Yard.
A/D/O's main hall will be open to the public to drop in and work.

A/D/O’s main hall will be open to the public to drop in and work. (Courtesy image)

The mastermind behind all of this is Mini, the BMW-owned company, which as we previously reported, is also one of the two sponsors of Urban-X, the forthcoming accelerator for “smart cities” startups that will be based in A/D/O. So what’s in it for the European auto brand? (At least one attendee at Open House New York’s launch party posed this question, with skepticism.)
The future of city living, as it turns out, is a deep, long-held interest of Mini’s. Through its program Mini Living, the brand has created installations of what shared housing could look like in the future, most recently at the London Design Festival in September. A/D/O is an extension of that work. The goal of the space, Pinsley said, is to bring in outside collaborators in addition to Mini’s internal programs and portfolio companies through Urban-X.

“We wanted to create a space that will bring about even more ideas for interesting solutions, interesting products, interesting services,” he said.

That’s one potential payoff for Mini: getting a sneak peek at innovative projects its members and visitors are working on. So, in a sense, A/D/O will function as an informal R&D lab for the brand, although it won’t take ownership in any projects or companies in the space aside from Urban-X participants.

Unlike many of the programs popping up around “smart cities,” including its resident accelerator Urban-X, A/D/O doesn’t have a strict emphasis on hardware. Pinsley said he envisions attracting people who work in disciplines such as music, fashion and architecture, for instance.

“If we look at spaces like this that are working spaces or academic institutions, often they’re very narrowly focused on one discipline, and there aren’t enough places for different people from different disciplines to collaborate,” he said. “We wanted to be open and flexible about what design is as a field of work.”

But ideally, Pinsley added, A/D/O won’t be a destination just for people who are already working in design. That’s why it includes a public workspace and a restaurant — to attract passersby. The space will also host classes on design and organize competitions and research programs, many of which will be open to public participation. The notion of engaging a broad group of residents has personal resonance for Pinsley, who grew up on the Upper West Side and now lives in Fort Greene.

“It’s been really exciting to see New York develop into a really important hub in design, technology and the future of manufacturing,” he said. “It makes us a very strong city, and we want to contribute to that in this space.”

Series: Brooklyn

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