Design Lab: Backstage

Backstage is the fifth and final space we have finished designing for Design Lab at The New York Hall of Science. It lends its name to the activities that will take place in a hands-on learning space dedicated to experimenting with all the ingredients that go into a theatrical productions from rigging to lightening, to costume design.


Model of the Backstage

Backstage is a flexible space that can transform to accommodate variety of activities and group sizes.

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Rolling tables, sewing machines, and mannequins will be brought out for costume design, shadow puppet shows will be staged at moveable freestanding projection screens, lights will be lowered and raised on pulleys in order to change their gels and adjust their angles, and groups will gather around tackboard partitions for problem ideation and display of results.

Backstage marks the final introduction to the four new spaces that along with Maker Space will make up Design Lab. In the next weeks will we start documenting the transition from the design phase into prototyping, creating study models and mock-ups before fabrication begins at our Brooklyn Navy Yard Space.

#designlab #designismaking

Design Lab: The Fort

This week we are taking a closer look at The Fort. In the past few months we have introduced the designs for The Dollhouse, Sandbox  and The Treehouse The Fort marks the fourth in a series of six workspace designs that will make up Design Lab.

Below is the latest built model of The Fort.


The Fort is especially designed for body/scale design. In practice this means full-scale building and prototyping activities such as furniture making and hatching plans for survival on a deserted island will take place in The Fort.


Modular concrete blocks form the enclosure of this space, and the blocks also function as storage cabinets, display boxes and pegboards. Their stacking pattern provides windows for passers-by to peek in and see what’s happening inside. Small nooks will allow slower starters to observe and research on their own, before jumping into the collaborative activities.


To learn more about Design Lab in its design phase visit our project page here, and stay tuned for process news as we introduce the remaining workshop-spaces and begin fabrication in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

#designab #designismaknig

Design Lab: The Treehouse

The Treehouse is the center workshop-space of the total of six spaces making up Design Lab. Centered in the middle of The New York Hall of Science’s Central Pavilion, the current heart of this historic facility that features hundreds of hands-on exhibitions ranging from molecular biology to physics.


Each of Design Lab’s six spaces is designed to accommodate a range of earning styles, with particular attention to problem ideation research, and display, encouraging visitors to share ideas, reflect on precedents, and examine problems from a variety of perspectives.

In The Treehouse visitors will explore physics from gravity, air resistance, fluid dynamics — by inventing and building contraptions, dropping them from a height, and documenting and observing the results. Challenges will range from designing “air dancers” that fall slowly and graceful to designing a vehicle to protect an egg from breaking.


Close-up of model construction

The Treehouse is a vertical space design that functions on two levels. In part it elevates its audience above ground in the look-out pods, where they will be able to observe the activities happening all over Design Lab as well as the exhibitions on the mezzanine.


Rendering overview of The Treehouse

To learn more about Design Lab in its design phase visit our project page here, and stay tuned for process news as we introduce the remaining workshop-spaces and begin fabrication.

#designab #designismaknig

Making is Design: Makers, Shakers and Innovators

As part of the research for Design Lab we want to get our hands dirty and learn from the wondrous experimental community of makers and tinkers in Brooklyn and beyond.

We’ve stumbled upon Brooklyn Brainery upon a local crowd-sourced community education space, that hosts classes on all topics imaginable from physics, HTML, toy hacking, to shorthand – (you’ll learn how to write fast and indecipherable to most eyes, very convenient for private subway scribbles.)


One of latest additions of educators is NYC Makery. This team of innovation makers has previously hosted a series of pop-up workshops where youth and adult were invited to tinker, experiment and design through making. Hands-on learning and experimentation is at the heart of these workshops, and we’re amazed to see how a chance gift of balloons turned one of the kids into a camera-hacker that created an awesome aerial photography device.


The idea of asking youth “what will you make today” rather than “today we’ll learn about” is the driving motivator for the spirit of NYC Makery and Design Lab alike. The re-design of The New York Hall of Science’s new exhibition space is divided into five separate workshop-spaces were visitors are encouraged to participate and design objects through hands-on making. Our belief that “making is design” bleeds into our own process of designing Design Lab from concept to finished space. We make sure to switch out our office chairs with tools to build features and objects that will be part of the end result.

To learn more about prototyping and our fabrication to design process click here, and to explore Design Lab in its design phase please visit our project page for Design Lab.

All Photographs courtesy of Makery NYC

#designlab #makingisdesign



Design Lab: Sandbox Prototyping

We have finished the design development phase of Design Lab for and have started to develop 1:1 scale prototypes. Here are two of thesketches of a feature element – a plywood cabinet that serve both as seating and storage in The Sandbox: a space dedicated to full-scale building and experimentation through hands-on design and learning.


Sketch of the seating and storage cabinets that outline the Sandbox area for full-scale construction of objects.


Sketch for individual cabinet construction

This is first prototyping of storage cabinets that will be a feature element of The Sandbox. These cabinets function both as storage for materials for large-scale hands-on building projects, as well as seating. The seats are incorporated into a low perimeter of drawers and shelving that rises up to become display shelves near the entry stair. This area provides space for observation and interactive touch-screens allow visitors to browse the work of previous participants and to conduct research for their own projects.



1:1 Prototype


This prototype cabinet made for storage of rubber bands for building towers and domes out of wooden dowels

Design Lab is a large scale re-design of the New York Hall of Science’s new exhibition space.

To learn more about Design Lab click here  #designlab #designismaking

Building Food Trucks for Social Justice

That is the ambition of Drive Change, a newly initiated New York City based food truck business, and an alternative education program, dedicated to teaching transferable skills to youth re-entering society from the criminal justice system.

Situ Studio is excited to have partnered up with this organisation to build a series of food trucks, the first one, hitting the streets in early Fall of 2013.

Drive Change Launch Film. Learn more about the fundraising campaign here.

A Side of Social Justice

Jordyn Lexton, the founder of Drive Change spent three years teaching young people at East River Academy, a public school serving the youth incarcerated at Riker Island. Quickly, she noticed how frequently that population of people would recycle through the system, recycle back into the classroom, back into the jail. That left Jordyn asking why is this happening at such a high rate?

One of the more apparent and frustrating reasons is the fact that New York State is one of only two states (North Carolina is the other) that automatically arrests 16-year-olds as adults.

Once released, these young adults are 85 percent more likely to commit violent crimes than young criminals who were sent to rehabilitative programs.

Because they are treated like adults by the criminal justice system these young adults leave with open felonies on their records making it extremely hard, if not impossible to find a job or go back to school, social services are limited, while Jordyn notes that: “kids are also internalizing that sense of being a criminal. So the doors of opportunities are just shut on their faces when they leave.”

Founder, Jordyn Lexton and Annie Bickerton, Director of Development go foodtruck shopping on Long Island.

Drive Change wants to build a foodtruck that not only caters to a New York gourmet foodie’s high standards, but also motivates its employers to take ownership and pride in their work space. Drive change and Situ Studio wants to construct a foodtruck where both the tactile experiences of food and touch are emphasized.

Visually, the foodtruck will embrace the dynamic between industrial and organic materials, and even food ingredients. NY State maple syrup is a key ingredient in the menu, while an re-purposed Con-Ed truck is the skeleton of the truck.


To help Drive Change realize their first goal, go here to donate. There’s 16 days left!

We will be documenting Drive Change and Situ Studio’s food truck’s journey from concept, model, to finished truck.

Follow Situ Studio on Facebook and Twitter #justtrucks for updates.

New Evidence Released in the Left-to-Die Boat Case

In a follow up to the Left-to-Die Boat report that Situ worked on last year with collaborators Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani (part of Forensic Architecture – a project funded by the European Research Council) that focused on the reconstruction of the events that lead to the death of 63 migrants in March/April 2011, a press conference was held today to present new evidence and announce a new legal cases that are finally being brought to court in Spain and France. After the Paris Prosecutor’s Office ignored initial complaints in April of 2012, two survivors filed the case as civil parties, forcing open a judicial investigation as to why French and Spanish military ships criminally neglected a vessel in distress, ultimately resulting in the unnecessary deaths of 63 people at sea.


The above image shows new Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data describing ships over 50 meters in length on the morning of April 4th 2011. Highlighted area indicates migrant vessel’s range of locations on that day. Below is the addendum itself that was released at today’s press conference in Paris held by International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).


Experts Report Life to Die Boat

At the press conference, Lorenzo Pezzani describes the inclusion of the new vessel detection data that is has been incorporated to strengthen the report’s spatio-temporal reconstruction of the events analyzed in the report. His description can be viewed at 30:00 of the below video.

Video streaming by Ustream

The addition of new SAR (synthetic aperture radar) data from the morning of April 4th 2011, the crucial time when a military ship is thought to have crossed within 10 meters the migrant vessel (see image at top of page), has been instrumental in gaining further insight into the provenience of the military ship the survivors recall encountering. While this new data narrows down the possibilites, the question remains – which ships were present in the area, informed of the vessel’s distress and failed to respond? Read FIDH’s most recent coverage of the report here.


Public Space Potluck

Over the weekend we installed Heartwalk at its summer home on Rockaway Beach. In celebration of the move, the Design Trust for Public Space will be hosting a Public Space Potluck for NYCxDesign in collaboration with the MoMA PS1 VW Dome 2. Please join us May 18th, from 1-4 pm, for the informal potluck and a discussion of the role of design in disaster recovery. Design Trust for Public Space will be providing cups, plates, napkins and beach blankets. The full press release is available here.

Heartwalk will be installed in the Rockaways through June 15th


Installing Heartwalk at its new home in the Rockaways at the end of Beach 94th st.


A big THANK YOU! to NYC Parks and Design Trust for Public Space for helping us get Heartwalk here.

Heartwalk is Traveling to the Rockaways

Heartwalk will find a new home for the summer season. Now that it is completing its stint in our home neighborhood of DUMBO, Heartwalk is getting ready to move to the Rockaways. The piece will be installed near the beach, where the boardwalk existed before it was decimated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.


The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is facilitating the move from DUMBO to Rockaway beach. We’re excited that Heartwalk will be present as the Rockaway community continues to rebuild and attract visitors this summer.


Heartwalk Moves to DUMBO

Heartwalk  has moved to DUMBO and is installed in the Pearl Street Triangle, just next to the Manhattan Bridge Archway, through April 30th.  Big thanks to the Design Trust for Public Space for helping to find new home for Heartwalk and for connecting us to the DUMBO Improvement District and the New York City Department of Transportation, who facilitated the move in early March.  After Heartwalk leaves DUMBO, we have plans to move it to another venue for the summer.  We hope to announce the next location shortly.


As documented in the above time-lapse, the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge creates a spectacular light show on sunny days.

Also, the Heartwalk Instagram aggregator site is still up and running.  Click here to check out the latest pictures (, and be sure to visit and tag your own photos #Heartwalk.


We were honored to have a visit from Architects Wang Shu and wife/partner Lu Wenyu recently.

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