“In the nineteenth-century,” Walter Benjamin wrote, “construction plays the role of the subconscious.” What roles, then, might lighting and interior design play?

During our last fortnightly meeting of the Fall term, members of the Maker Lab sat down to collaboratively write a charter of shared values, ethos, nuts and bolts, and research questions. It was a productive (and fun) exercise, but digressions were difficult to avoid; goals like “publicly communicate across media,” “make the digital material (matter),” “work together to create,” and “build research and outreach initiatives that enable our projects to address both scholarly [and non-academic] communities” were occasionally interspersed with (bad) puns like “put the ‘Borat’ in collaboration.” Half-jokingly, under “nuts and bolts” I contributed: “French press, proper lighting as integral to productive lab environment.” Actually, lighting and lamps came up quite a few times during this writing exercise, and it became increasingly unclear which category (real goals/values or jokes?) my comment belonged to. Oddly enough, following the initial writing exercise, lighting was one of the topics we followed up on most in our wrap-up talk. Apparently this was more than an ongoing joke, or misuse of Lab time: [pullquote]the quality of light and configuration of space in the Lab were central concerns for a lot of us here.

Room 243 in the Technology Enterprise Facility is, well, functional . . . We have a workbench for making, where we keep our Maker Bot for 3D printing, soldering iron, tools etc.; a bookshelf that Jentery has generously stocked with various DH and cultural studies materials; whiteboards for brainstorming; computers; workshop posters and schedules on the walls; and as of recently, a coffee grinder and French press. It’s actually a pretty welcoming environment . . . aside from the lack of windows and overhead fluorescent lights. We’ve tackled this issue to a certain degree and have started to accumulate desk lamps, but one of the things I want to do here over the holidays–in addition to video editing, sketching Maker zine ideas, and helping to get the website ready for launch–is to work on improving the ambiance of our collective work environment. Because it matters.

Victoria Rosner’s Modernism and the Architecture of Private Life talks about areas of overlap between Bloomsbury writers and Omega Workshops: domestic design and spatial configuration were huge concerns for these artists. Having a room of one’s own (to borrow Woolf’s title) was imperative, but just how does one make it one’s own? Sometime over the next couple of weeks I want to build a series of lamps out of old manual SLR cameras with tripods as stands (a camera tripod seems to me the ideal lamp stand since it can be adjusted to any height and pointed in any direction at any angle). Hopefully some warm lamplight will make up for the lack of natural light, and help contribute to a positive, welcoming, enjoyable, and productive atmosphere. And maybe I exaggerated a bit when I wrote that proper lighting is “integral” to a productive work environment . . . but it helps.

Post by Arthur Hain, attached to the Makerspace project, with the fabrication tag. Featured images for this post by Arthur Hain and Jentery Sayers.


More about Arthur Hain

MA Student, English | Assistant, Maker Lab