Breaking Ground at the Visible Futures Lab


This post is the first in a series on the Visible Futures Lab—the state-of-the-art making facility shared by the School of Visual Arts' Interaction Design and Products of Design Departments.

Nestled somewhere on the 7th floor of 132 West 21st Street through a narrow ramped doorway that adjoins separate building floor levels, sledge hammers and dustbins move furiously, breaking ground on SVA’s nascent and highly anticipated Visible Futures Lab. Frank Bonomo, MFA IxD department system admin, recently caught up with the lab’s newly appointed director, Leif Krinkle, to discuss the planning and opening of this exciting new make/build resource. Slated to open late-spring/early-summer, the Visible Futures Lab or “The VFL” gives students enrolled in the MFA Interaction Design and the MFA Products of Design programs a home to make, model, tinker, and innovate across disciplines, using both high-tech and traditional tools.

How is the ground breaking going, and what’s the current plan to open?

The ground breaking has just started this week with demolition of the 7th floor of 132 and 136 West 21st street. Construction is slated for the next 12 weeks and should allow us to begin moving in around end of March. It will take a couple months to install all the new equipment, get it running and put it through its paces. Without being too optimistic, we would like to have a soft opening during the summer semester and be fully running by fall 2012.

What kinds of tools and work areas will we find at the VFL?

The VFL is very unique among most labs as we will have a woodworking and machine shop, a rapid prototyping lab, a workshop, an electronics lab and gallery all in one space. There will be a whole slew of traditional woodworking tools including a table saw, miter saw, lathe, router, sanders, vertical mill, grinders, hand tools, etc. In addition, there will be a plethora of digital machines including 3D printers, laser cutters, and a CNC router.

What kind of planned activities will be taking place?

Regular events and workshops will be held in the lab featuring salon-stlye discussions and presentations on the labs capabilities, current trends in design and fabrication, and helpful techniques for a variety of skill sets.

There will also be an Artist-in-Residence program with a rotating cast of amazing artists and designers who will be using the lab throughout the year and presenting their work in the gallery.

What kind of access will students have?

Classes from the Interaction Design and Products of Design departments pertaining to fabrication, making, and electronics will be taught in the lab and these students will have access to work on class projects. SVA from other departments can apply to work in the lab for a period of time on a specific project for a nominal lab fee.

Who are you? Tell us a little about your background…

I started in Chicago working with musicians, performers, writers, designers, and programmers to create sensor-driven interactive multimedia performance spaces. This led me to New York where I studied at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. There I was exposed to microcontrollers, generative design and human-computer interface. I then worked with the League of Electronic Musical Robots (LEMUR) building robotic musical instruments, and the Madagascar Institute building jet-powered carnival rides.

What are you most excited about with the VFL?

The VFL will provide the most cutting-edge tools for students to actualize their ideas into tangible forms. I can’t wait to see how their various talents and skill levels use the tools to create things I never imagined.

Stay tuned as we bring you updates on the rollout and launch of the Visible Futures Lab later this semester.

Frank Bonomo