Fabmobil tours from Oberlausitz to #rp18


Photo credits: Fabmobil

Why do designers and creative heads live in cities and not in the countryside? What infrastructures do they need in rural areas to feel inspired and content? Christian Zöllner, of the Berlin-based design and research studio The Constitute, answered these questions for himself by creating a mobile Fab Lab for rural areas, first presented at RPten.

The idea of building a DDL (Dorf Design Lab) was alluring, but somehow unrealistic on-site. What good does a creative center do in a decentralized region? What if no public transport reaches it, making it a very lonely place? The lab would have to be as decentralized as its surroundings—it had to be mobile.

Adding to rural mobility problems, neglected digital infrastructures foster reservations and a lack of knowledge about creative technologies. Also: there isn’t one generalizable rural area. They are diverse and unique. Christian Zöllner started his project in his hometown—the area of Bautzen, East Saxony—which has a lot of potential for socio-political growth.   

Its first prototype, a borrowed bus, was presented at Tincon 2016 at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. The Constitute tested how a Fab Lab could operate in small environments and what technologies and methods were necessary to make it useful for both tech and design professionals, as well as the cultural and digital education of teens. Truth is, rural areas lack modern, digital-oriented teen leisure and education programs.

Talks and meetups at RPten were first attempts at presenting the idea and gathering feedback. After RPten, the government-funded Kulturstiftung des Bundes announced its interest in the project. In close collaboration with the foundation, The Constitute developed the concept, finding additional investors and finally purchasing its own double-decker bus in May 2017. On-site helpers in East Saxony came together to refurbish and equip the bus with technology, turning it into a mobile digital lab of the future.

Fabmobil has been touring the Oberlausitz region in East Saxony since October 2017. Funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes, the Saxonian Ministry of Arts and Science, the Kulturstiftung des Freistaat Sachsen, and the PwC Stiftung, it visits eight schools and four socio-cultural centers at regular two-week intervals. It offers workshops, open studios, and project consultation services.

Fully funded and on tour in East Saxony through 2018, the non-profit organization Constitute e.V. is seeking for support, donations, and opportunities to sustain their program in 2019. Only now, 6 months in, their work had been paying off: kids are starting their own maker and hacking projects.