It’s been months in the making but Saturday night New Lab celebrated its opening in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and it was impressive.
The space, which bills itself as “a cathedral of manufacturing,” did nothing to negate the moniker, as more than 2,000 people from the Brooklyn arts, tech and wider communities descended upon the 84,000-square-foot design and manufacturing hub.
The space, which opened officially this summer, is more coworking space than office building, but on an industrial scale. Large workshops and offices ring the periphery of the converted machine shop where ships for both World Wars were built, while a central area of desks and open space rises an airy 80 feet to the exposed-beam ceiling. All or nearly all of the companies in the space were open and sharing what they’re working on, in open house fashion.
— Newlab (@Newlab) September 25, 2016
One of the central parts of New Lab is the additive manufacturing workshop, run by Ben Millstein. The workshop has three different 3D printers open for use by companies in New Lab for prototyping products or whatever else they might need it for.
“We’re located in the building so when they’re working on something across the hall they can send it over,” Millstein said. “The turnaround time is a lot quicker than you’d have with your outside resources. Most of them are a week and we can do it in a few days. Also they have me personally as a resource, to help figure out the best material and the best geometries in designing the model.”
Down the hall from the additive manufacturing center we encountered the workshop of the nonprofit Terreform ONE. Filled with people looking at conceptual designs, including a much-photographed folding sphere called an urban farm pod.
“In terms of looking at future cities, we’ll look at different alternative scenarios, for instance instead of manufacturing furniture, can we grow our furniture using materials like mycelium that is biodegradable that is actually healthy for the planet as opposed to going into landfills and depleting our natural resources,” explained Terreform ONE Executive Director Vivian Kuan. “We’ll look at our local communities, like our two cofounders had done the urban design study of the Navy Yard before the developers actually came in and made it a reality. We looked at this amazing infrastructure of buildings and dry docks and re-envisioned a future where the Navy Yard could become repurposed to become a future manufacturing space using state of the art digital fabrication. And now we’re in it!”
Across the catwalk on the second floor, we found an office packed with people, empty wine bottles, grape stems and the remnants of cheese plates on long drafting tables. It was the office of 10XBETA, a product design and product management firm.
“New Lab is a startup in itself, where it wanted to bring people that bring product to life together to see how they would collaborate and be different to your WeWork or your common workspaces,” explained Simon Ellison, an industrial designer at the firm. “For us, we have access to technology and prototyping in house at the workshop downstairs, to have that in house where you can test and iterate rapidly, there aren’t really spaces like that around the world, we believe this is one of the first of its kind.”
New Lab is a huge bet on Brooklyn.
Developers Macro Sea estimate that when it’s full, it will be home to more than 50 companies and 350 workers. Its first tenants include space-tech makers Honeybee Robotics, workplace-tech firm Strongarm Technologies and nanotechnology startup Nanotronics Imaging. The hope, and the goal, is that world-changing innovations and products will come forth from the eastern banks of the East River in the 21st century in the way ships of war came from it in the 20th.