Collaborative Laboratory (Co.LAB)
Collaborative Laboratory (Co.LAB) is an award-winning design and research initiative within the Birmingham School of Architecture & Design. We co-create and co-produce creative transdisciplinary projects with a unique teaching process combining undergraduate and postgraduate students working collaboratively with our staff.
Co.LAB is a vehicle for a range of projects that seek to directly engage you with the dynamic context of the city and use transdisciplinary design strategies to produce conceptual ideas and experimental design approaches for your organisation. By embracing more unorthodox methods, we can test the extremes of disciplinary conventions and generate provocative responses to disrupt conventional design thinking. Past projects include our students working with arts and cultural organisations, freelance creatives, community groups, commercial or corporate companies, public institutions and local authorities.
A Brief History of Co.LAB
Co.LAB started in 2011 as a live project module in the former Birmingham School of Architecture. After an initial series of pilot projects, including the construction of Hayes Bridge, Hidden Spaces exhibition at Curzon Station and the Flatpack Film Palais, Co.LAB increased its scope to integrate students from multiple courses and a wide range of creative disiplines. To date, we have worked on over 100 collaborative projects with over 50 external partners. We have designed a number of cultural spaces in the city including Birmingham Open Media, Centrala Gallery, Dual Works, and STEAMhouse Innovation Centre. To date, our work has received a number of awards and nominations including:
- Nominee for Knowledge Exchange Initiative. The Times Higher Education Award, 2019.
- Practice Award winner for Knowledge Hub project with NODE, National Urban Design Awards, London. 2017.
- Biffa Award, Small Grants Award for Gallery and events space refurbishment, Birmingham Open Media. 2015.
- UnLtd Social Entrepreneurship Grant for Birmingham Open Media co-working space, 2014.
The programme integrates undergraduate and postgraduate students from architecture, product and furniture design, interior and landscape disciplines to produce a dynamic cross-disciplined cohort, as well as encourage peer-to-peer learning across the various groups. Typically, each project is led by an academic tutor and an external client/group in a joint role. Projects take place largely offsite depending on the partner course or group, and all projects will be underpinned by collaboration, invention, physical production, using manual and digital ‘crafts’ to generate objects, spaces and events.
Co.LAB contributes to the development of distinct employability, professional and transferable skills in our students including team-working, project planning, entrepreneurialism, negotiation and understanding of complimentary creative practices. The student modules are designed to disseminate the end outputs across the region, playing a vital part in the cultural offering of the city by co-producing events for the creative community and wider public. We have categorised our projects to fall within these inter/trans-disciplinary themes:
- Innovative Product + Prototyping: product development
- Installation + Intervention: built structures, design/feasibility, spaces for the city
- Pedagogy + Research in Practice: teaching & pedagogy, research & development
- Collective + Communal Engagement: communal urbanism
- Creative Transdisciplinary Collaboration: transdisciplinary exploration
Engage with Co.LAB
You can keep up-to-date with our Co.Lab projects through: