Mancini Duffy has opened a new Design Lab, a hub for the firm’s research and development program.
The 250 s/f lab plays host to a microfactory of 3D printers, free-range virtual reality gear, drone docking, and more.
The Lab is the culmination of the firm’s investment in leveraging technology to enhance the design process.
“Our goal with the Design Lab is to find unique ways to integrate technology into our day-to-day practice and elevate the design and delivery process,” said Mancini president Christian Giordano. “When we use technology to improve the internal aspects of an architectural firm, the way we do things is optimized and made increasingly efficient, helping us boost our volume of high-quality services. The Design Lab is the perfect place to evolve this process and explore innovative ROI solutions for our clients.”
Mancini has been operating the initiative out of a small workspace located in the firm’s Chelsea office. Cramped quarters, however, have not limited the range of services that have already been engaged by clients: large-scale 3D printing at Chaminade High School’s new Dolan Family Research, Science, and Technology Center and Galeria Melissa, a high-end boutique in SoHo.
There have been virtual reality-driven design sessions for kitchen upgrades at Boqueria Restaurant; and Drone mapping for a high-profile financial services client, to name a few.
The specialized space is a testing ground where clients and designers can collaborate in real-time. “Our clients know themselves and their needs the best,” said Michael Kipfer, the Associate who is spearheading the research and development efforts at Mancini.
“The Design Lab gives us the capability to interact both with clients and our proposed designs to communicate between seamlessly between the two. In turn, we’re enhancing workflows, making updates in real-time, and giving our clients more for their time and budget.”
Spatially, the Design Lab is laid out around a central virtual reality “arena,” a 100 s/f area marked on specially-designed carpeting, where clients can interact withdesigns and the designers can revise right in front of them while in a virtual reality environment.
Designers at Mancini observe this interaction via large tv screens and walk through the project with the client as they do. Adjacent to the arena, a counter is dedicated to 3D printers and curing stations — all arranged so that the manufacturing process of printed elements runs smoothly and efficiently.
These efforts are powered by a custom computer built by one of Mancini’s in-house programmers that includes some of the most advanced processing and graphic components coming out of Intel and Nvidia.
“We are unleashing ourselves from traditional design delivery for those clients who are interested in technology. The Design Lab is the best incubator for those ideas to become fully realized,” said Giordano.
“We want all of our staff to engage with us in the process, that’s why we allow for dedicated R&D hours to explore what is possible and Kipfer has been integral in keeping everyone up to speed.”