Promoting the innovative use of manufacturing technologies.
The City of Ljubljana is revitalising its industrial heritage by pioneering an innovative production space and cooperation platform. RogLab is centred around the fields of design, architecture and visual arts and is focused on offering production tools; stimulating creative use of 3D technologies; enabling interdisciplinary collaboration as well as research and innovation-oriented creativity; bolstering connections between creative activities and business; developing projects that deal with pressing issues in urban environments and address current challenges in architecture and design with the emphasis on social and environmental responsibility.
This project was awarded the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2018 in the following category: Innovation.
After phasing out much of its industrial activity, the City of Ljubljana wanted to give new meaning to one of its most iconic buildings, the Rog factory, while preserving the city’s industrial tradition. To guide its regeneration plans, the City undertook an investigation to identify the best way forward in the emerging era of decentralised, digital industrial production. It decided to create a fresh organisational model bringing together different sectors and stakeholders in a jointly-used manufacturing space to share knowledge and ideas and create novel products.
The City reformulated its vision for the vast Rog factory, placing greater emphasis on shared space and technologies and new forms of management. In the first instance, it decided to pilot a small-scale version: RogLab. It is based in a 30m² shipping container situated between the Ljubljana river and the Rog factory.
RogLab’s key objective is to be a creative hub for education, innovation and production and promote interdisciplinary working and the sharing of knowledge and resources where the challenges of contemporary society could be better tackled
At RogLab’s heart is a fabrication laboratory (fab lab) with 3D printing, computer-controlled milling and laser cutting equipment and services for rapid prototyping. Wrapped around these facilities are programmes designed to stimulate the use of 3D technologies. RogLab is trialling a non-hierarchical style of management unusual in Slovenia to encourage the desired informal, welcoming and open environment. The hub’s everyday operation is managed by an interdisciplinary team of three, and freelancers with relevant skills are brought in to work as mentors on specific projects.
RogLab is developing its program in close collaboration through a network of partner and cross-sectoral connection including public and private companies, non-governmental organizations, cultural, research, educational institutions.
There are typically 16 local and 9 international partners involved at any one time, from NGOs to tech companies, and public cultural institutions to university faculties. Together they enable this small lab to support a large number of workshops, projects, open days, art installations, workshops, competitions, education programmes, exhibitions and seminars for its 300 paying members and other users such as students, creative hobbyists and residents. Reaching out to younger generations is seen as a particular priority. RogLab helps to build skills of over 200 children through Saturday creative workshops, school projects and learning content that can be incorporated into existing school programmes. University students studying art, design, engineering and architecture are also found at RogLab, working on individual projects. As are some of their professors who take part in the lab’s mentorship programme.
The RogLab project is led by the Municipality and the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana. Established with €80,000 funding from the European Second Chance project, RogLab receives €50,000 a year from the City and earns approximately €4,000 from membership fees and education courses.
Originally meant to be a pilot project, RogLab has taken on a life of its own. In its six years, it has established a decentralised small factory fit for the challenges of our time, connected partners who would never otherwise have come together for creative innovation and reached thousands of users.
Two of RogLab’s major, long term projects have concentrated on developing prototypes for tackling urban challenges and making life easier for people with physical disabilities. In ‘The Factory That Is Making Itself’ project, 43 collaborators produced 10 prototypes. These include a foldaway quarter pipe that can bring skateparks to rural settings and a recycled cycling bag that transforms easily from a rucksack into a shoulder bag. The ‘Design(Dis)Ability’ project, which involved disabled people and partners from seven countries, led to eight prototypes. Among these is an ingenious raincoat that can be easily removed from its bag and pulled over and zipped up by wheelchair users.
RogLab has overcome what the team cites as a key challenge - ensuring an encouraging and supportive environment - by seeking out technical staff and mentors with equally strong communication and people skills. It has also addressed the challenge of limited space by developing Fab Box, a mobile fab lab that will spread knowledge and generate ideas in communities around the country.
Becoming a member of FabLabNet, the European network of fab labs, has enabled RogLab to share its experiences, learn from others and continually test new content, partnerships and working methods. This progressive approach is important for the City, which has plans to further develop the RogLab model for incorporation into the Rog Centre for Contemporary Arts, to be housed in the renovated former Rog factory.
- Ljubljana’s RogLab model: Education, Innovation and Prototyping, EUROCITIES, November 2018: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/2018_innovation_Ljubljana.pdf