©2019. Brunel University London

Principal findings of the co-design workshops

Three sets of co-design workshops, the Design by Consensus workshop was adapted by The Glass-House, were conducted – two in the UK and one in China. It aimed to help people come together to explore how they could shape a building to cater for multiple different makers, and to be a space that could help engage the community in creative making activities.

The workshop was flexible and contains a number of tools and techniques that could help different stakeholders in China develop shared visions for public makerspace. It introduced an imagined building with internal and external space, and a series props to help explore shared and private workspaces, storage and social spaces and the distinction between clean and messy and between quiet and noisy spaces. There were also different size kitchen spaces, toilet configurations and some standard building features, e.g. doors, windows and corridors. 

Stakeholder Roles created for the co-design workshop

discuss the spatial layout

  add functional area and define spatial quality

The first set of workshop was organized in the UK. 14 design researchers from China were given the first-hand experience of visiting community-based makerspaces in the UK before they were asked to create a vision for public makerspace in China. The outcomes of this workshop reflected what participants had experienced and their understanding of Chinese culture.

The second set of workshop was organised in China with approximately 20 Chinese participants from various backgrounds, e.g. university students, academics, local residents, designers, artists, office workers and businesspersons. They did not have the first-hand experience of visiting community-based makerspaces and mainly relied on the information provided by the research team and the design researchers, who took part in the UK field trip. The second workshop enabled the research team to engage a wider audience to better understand contextual issues of public makerspaces in China.

The third set of the workshop was conducted with approximately 40 postgraduate design students. These participants were selected because most of them have creative backgrounds and, therefore, could comment on the future of makerspaces and help the researchers get further ideas. Half of the participants were Chinese and the rest came from different cultural backgrounds such as British, Greek, South Korean, Indian and Thai. Involving non-Chinese participants could help the researcher see the similarities and differences in terms of approaches, outcomes and key considerations regarding the spatial design.

All eight groups (6 Chinese and 2 non-Chinese) believed that the interaction between makers and non-makers should be considered a critical issue when designing makerspaces. Therefore, they wanted to 1) show their making activities to the public through the window, which could generate a sense of welcome, and 2) have an exhibition space inside and/or outside of the building, where the items made in the makerspace could be sold with expectations of economic value creation. Moreover, they believed that making should be considered as an inclusive activity that should be accessible to everyone. They also expected to have makerspaces in a residential area so that there were plenty of opportunities to interact with local people. All groups separated the workspace by the natures of functions and divided the functional areas by the level of noise – for example, the handcrafting workspace is a large shared space in one corner, while the digital work zone is in another corner. Having an outdoor garden (a green space) seemed to be quite important to most groups. However, they did want to keep a reasonable level of privacy from the public and, therefore, most groups considered a wooden fence around the garden area.

The researchers observed that the Chinese groups showed a significantly different approach compared to the other two groups in terms of their definition and role of their makerspace, design process, strategy and decisions. Further details of the Chinese groups’ considerations on the physical environments are described below.

While the number of Chinese participants taking part in these workshops was relatively small, some similarities across different Chinese groups could be drawn.

 

Firstly, all the Chinese participants approached co-design tasks in a pragmatic and efficient way. They spent a relatively small amount of time (approximately 5-10 minutes) on creating shared values in the form of the vision statement but dedicated more time on designing the space, which was the practical task. They spent a considerable amount of time negotiating each other’s demands. In contrast, the other two non-Chinese groups spent a larger amount of time (15 – 20 minutes) on the development of shared visions and took a flexible approach towards interior design. Creating a positive and productive working environment was the main concern of Chinese participants when allocating different types of spaces inside the building. Two Chinese groups placed a strong emphasis on dividing the indoor space into private and public zones, as they preferred to work efficiently in their private areas without any disruptions from the visitors. This was not the main concern for the non-Chinese groups.

 

Secondly, it was observed that most Chinese participants preferred to arrange different working spaces (e.g. woodworking, metalworking and pottery) in order by anticipating how different stakeholders would use different zones (e.g. quiet, messy and social zones). A strong emphasis was placed on managing and controlling the space – e.g. who should be able to access which space. For example, four out of six Chinese groups decided to keep the outdoor space mainly for makers. By ensuring that this outdoor space could only be accessed through the building, it became easier to control and manage. Another key concern was growth. Chinese participants positively predicted that the number of makers would increase. Subsequently, they allocate large spaces for individual makers within the makerspace. In contrast, the Western participants did not foresee a significant growth of public makerspace and, thus, would be satisfied with relatively small working space. Moreover, they would be willing to share storage space with others and reduce their own space if needed.

 

Thirdly, socialisation was not perceived as a part of making for Chinese participants. Although having proper socialising space for makers appeared to be extremely important to every group, all of the Chinese groups separated making space from socialising space. In contrast, the Western group considered socialising as part of making. Their rationale was that combing socialising with making would make it more enjoyable and meaningful. It was observed that all of the Chinese groups perceived the outdoor space as an extension of the space inside the building. As a result, they paid great attention to the outdoor space and tried to utilize it fully. Although some groups turned the outdoor space into working space and a storage area, most of them used the outdoor space for social activities and networking (with other makers and those from the surrounding community). Finally, most Chinese participants demonstrated strong business awareness by thinking of sustaining the makerspace financially in the long term. Five out of six Chinese groups introduced a shop – they not only want to display items created by makers, but also to sell them. The idea of a shop was not initially included in the instructions and props provided, but initiated by the participants themselves. In contrast, European participants introduced a coffee shop in the building mainly for relaxing.