We visited Fab Lab UNAL which is in the Arts and Architecture school of the National University of Colombia.

Although it’s close to busy avenues and reaching it is no fun, once inside the campus feels it’s in the middle of the jungle! Exotic trees surround the various buildings and their long rich branches shade the paths. Because of Medellin’s microclimate (Medellin is by many the city of eternal spring) the university social areas and cafes are semi outdoors: well covered to shelter from the tropical rain or strong sunlight but not completely built as the weather permits to stay outdoors, at all time of year enjoying the natural ventilation, temperature and light.

Colombia_FabLab09Could it be the natural environment and being outdoors?

We felt more creative, relaxed and energetic the week we worked in the Fab Lab, despite the amount of work we had and the deadline we had set ourselves.

For a minute one forgets they are in University grounds

Colombia_FabLab04Two beach volleyball courts 🙂

We had seen a similar yet smaller in scale campus -The School of Art – in San Juan in Costa Rica last year. See pics here

The National University of Colombia is the largest one in Colombia, with campuses in various cities. The campus in Medellin houses a variety of disciplines, an impressive library and innovation centre whose furniture are designed and fabricated by Fab Lab Unal,

The building where Fab Lab UNAL is housed, is also home to the arts’ workshop spaces: sculpture, ceramics, architecture, wood and metal. Some hands on lectures on material properties and experiments take place there. A large space on the ground floor hosts temporary student exhibitions.

We were welcomed by the Fab Lab gurus Juan and Dani, who toured us around the campus and workshop spaces. The Fab Lab is a 100m2 space devided in two parts, the CNCs and handtool space and the cleaner area, similarly to other Labs including the one we had set up in Cardiff in 2011.


Large windows overlook the football and beach volleyball grounds and campus trees, and as if that wasn’t enough Juan is growing his own garden to be part of a vertical garden structure in the Lab!

The Fab Lab team has done a great job making the space a vibrant, welcoming and comfortable/ easy space to work and fabricate. Their do-er attitude together with their design and fabrication skills has successfully resulted in various projects. See some of them here.

Together with David they help students with relevant to the Fab Lab projects, i.e. design and materials for digital fabrication, electronics, interaction etc. The Fab Lab therefore is a student fabrication hub, a space for educational workshops, a Lab for collaboration with external researchers and professionals.

But there is more

What makes a difference is not how well they have dealt with the space, the projects, organisation of workshops, teaching and connecting; It is the people themselves, their kind and cheerful character and their enthusiasm and professionalism as well as their bond as a team. It was so nice meeting you and looking forward to our online collaborative projects!


What about the project? When not making prototypes with Juan, Dani and Olivia were working on the design parameters and constraints in Rhino and Grasshopper while Alex was less sociable working in finalising the Pure Data code.. Mainly debugging and troubleshooting 😦


Will it fit?  Prototype checking the cavity dimensions- microcontroller/shield and cables, battery, battery cable, piezo sensor, acceleromenter and the magnets and their sensors will all have to fit in there.There is also the issue of plugging/unplugging a cable to reprogram sounds and interaction of wanted, so more space in the main cavity is essential, making our job in designing the form less playful if we want to stick to the set dimensions of the instrument..


Is it a diamond? Is it a dinosaur’s egg? Setting parameters in Grasshopper is great but sometimes they over-ride aesthetics: how rigid shall we be in following the parameter figures? A prototype was essential to check the bottom part whose faces trigger sounds and effects. Angles between the faces seem OK – Now back on the drawing board (or screen) for some design tweaking





2 parts, 2 sided milling, inside cavity for electronics. Read the whole project idea design and fabrication here (watch this space, we will upload the link soon! ) 

Eucalyptus, Pine, Ply or other? We made a pine prototype to check out the form. Further design research and material choices to follow as soon as we’re back in Europe.


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