Fab Lab

Site: St. Louis, MO, United States

Status: Built

Program: Educational

Client: Washington University in St. Louis

The digital fabrication laboratory houses the digital media equipment for the Sam Fox School of Design. This includes a CNC milling machine, two three-dimensional printers, and capacity for four laser cutters and adjoining computers.  The CNC milling machine requires a closed space for the purposes of air filtration. The remaining equipment is in an open space with an upgraded exhaust system.  The enclosure of the lab space was determined by both the budget and the necessity for full visual access across lab spaces and lockable zones for the fabrication equipment and the adjoining materials library. As a result of these limitations, the project needed a cage-like enclosure, fully visible access to all areas of production, and fire safety alarms. In addition, the lab’s construction relies heavily on digital process of production, while traditional methods of fabrication maintain the budget constraints.  Given the parameters of the project, a fabrication wall of frames patterned with wires and rods that create a sense of movement across the adjoining corridor was constructed.  The wires are fine-tuned with rods like strings on a guitar.


For the interior space, analysis was done of light, path, and the perceptions of moving through the space. The scale of the human figure determined the range of fluctuation of more open netting (weaving) to encourage the view into the fabrication lab.  The diagrams produced studied perspective and parallax, or the apparent difference or displacement in apparent direction of an object as seen from two different points not on a straight line with the object.  The pattern is dynamic from different directions. In the patterning, elements disappear and emerge through a progressive networking. These and the project were inspired by the Venezuelan artist Gego and her drawings without paper. The steel frames which hold the strings connect at both the ceiling and floor; negotiating a complex network of piping, conduit, mechanical, electrical and data services. In the assembly of the wall, rods were drilled and tapped to connect to the frame, and the stainless steel wires were tightened with ferrels, requiring five people to pull each networked frame in balance.