Following the opening of Barnard’s Milstein Center, students will now be able to access tools that support design and craftsmanship through the Design Center, based on the building’s first floor.
Professor Karen Fairbanks, chair of the department of architecture and the Design Center’s inaugural director, has been involved in the space’s conception and planning since initial discussion about the Milstein Center began.
“The idea for the space has been that it supports a whole range of activities,” Fairbanks said. “It’s certainly a drop-in space. Whether you’re doing creative work in class or outside of class, we want you to come in and know this is your space.”
The center contains tools like 3D printers, sewing machines, and laser cutters. An embroidery machine, a drill press, and a vinyl cutter have also been ordered and are expected to be operational in the coming weeks. All are open to both student and faculty use.
Design and Technology librarian Jennifer Brown introduced the space to students at the first Student Government Association meeting of the semester last Monday.
“Sewing has been one of the biggest points of excitement,” Brown said. “A lot of people are enjoying the thought of upcycling old clothes or learning how to do it; it’s very personal.”
The architecture, theatre, and art history and visual arts departments have also expressed interest in using the space to enhance their students’ academic and personal projects.
“When I told the architecture students that a Design Center was opening at Barnard, they started cheering,” Fairbanks said. “I know theatre also has limited [design] space, so we knew there would be excitement and strong interest.”
The Design Center is the second dedicated design hub at Columbia, preceded only by the MakerSpace at the Seeley W. Mudd Building, which opened in 2014.
“We’ve been in conversation with the MakerSpace since the beginning,” Fairbanks said. “We’ve intentionally bought tools that are similar to theirs, if not the same, so that it’s easy to move from one space on campus to the other. We want to establish a network across the University so students can navigate towards any tool they might need.”
Zoe Ross, CC ’18, the post-baccalaureate fellow for the Design Center and a former “superuser” at the MakerSpace, spoke on the difference between the two facilities.
“They’re structured on different models. The MakerSpace is primarily a student-run space with a lab manager. It’s run on volunteer hours by students called superusers,” Ross said. “At the Design Center, we have full-time staff, so we have more regular hours while still having that overlap in tools.”
All students interested in using tools at the Design Center, including those certified as superusers at the MakerSpace, will be required to undergo a safety training workshop, which will be held multiple times per week.
“Our goal is to start making it clear on campus where all these facilities are,” Fairbanks said. “Our space is helping make clear what tools are available for everybody regardless of major.”