Futurelab 2.0

flexible space and service concept that serves both the administration and the people of Cologne

service design
conceptual study
product design

How to design a flexible space and service concept that serves both the administration and the people of Cologne as a contact point for working on urban processes and local issues?

How to inspire people inside and outside the administration to participate in urban processes?

How to design spatial elements to encourage a particular work atmosphere?

In this project, we developed a concept for the future "Futurelab" of the city of Cologne. "Futurelab" is the idea of a place for citizens to participate in decisions and opinions that are implemented in the functioning system of the city. In this creative and "different" workspace, employees of the city of Cologne can hold various workshops and meetings outside the usual workplace and a platform for the implementation of various innovative projects. The term "2.0" is part of the name of the project because the premises of "Futurelab" already existed before. Still, due to the inadequacy of the arrangement
the idea did not fully take off - city administration employees only used it for internal meetings. The project aims to prototype a flexible concept of space and services that serves both the administration and the people of Cologne as a contact point for work on urban processes and local problems and to inspire people inside and outside the administration to participate in urban operations. Our focus was on the development of space and service concepts, the implementation of physical prototypes, and the design of related processes.

futurelab space blueprint
Since we had three rooms at our disposal, we decided to adapt them according to three phases of creating innovations:

1. creative analysis - "brainstorming," general creative thinking, and execution of methods for designing different concepts

2. creative synthesis – structuring of collected ideas using different service design concepts

3. prototyping – creating simple models from different craft materials

To develop an adequate concept, we conducted many co-creation workshops, prototyping, and interviews with many people in contact with the previous Futurelab space. However, one of the essential parts of the process was the organization of a “test day” - a workshop in which employees of the city of Cologne tested our ideas and thus gave us instructions on how to refine our concepts.

Final concept

the creative analysis room
the creative synthesis room
the prototyping room
1. To establish an atmosphere where everyone feels equal and thus relaxed enough to share their ideas without coercion, we imagined a scenario where the users preferably take off their shoes before entering the room.

2.  A tactile intervention that we predicted greatly influences the creation “relaxed” atmosphere and contributes to the idea of equality are the round-shaped carpets that we placed on the floor of the room, which the participants of the workshops could sit on.

3. Another intervention was the concept of the "ideation tree" - a tool for "idea sprint" or "brainstorming" that gives ideas "weight" and a tactile character, thus encouraging creativity by creating a playful nature of the activity. The "tree of ideas" consists of a wooden cylindrical base in which flexible rods are inserted in a circular formation, on the upper ends of which metal hooks are inserted. Cards are inserted on the hooks applied to the rods, with metal hooks applied. During activities for which this tool is intended, such as "brainstorming," participants write their ideas on cards and hang them on rods that serve as carriers of specific topics. The more cards accumulate on one branch, the more it bends and approaches the floor. When the first branch touches the floor, the activity ends, and the group has a physical representation of the topic/problem for which the most cards, i.e., ideas, have been collected. "Tree of ideas" can be used for different games and categorizations.


4. To create a working environment that promotes alertness in the room, we created a playlist with music that is used as background music in video games - a genre created to both stimulate the senses, creating a feeling of fun and delight and also to “meld within the back of the brain” (it does not divert attention from the given task).
5. At FutureLab, the City of Cologne often works with a library of methods templates. These are accessible at an online database, but every time one is needed, the city workers print out the desired template on paper, often very large (A1 or A0) or in several copies for all participants. Since that way of working is not sustainable, we decided to design a concept that could be used repeatedly. That's how we came up with red metal circles to which transparent sheets with printed method templates can be attached with magnets. They can be written on with markers, and magnets can be placed on them if necessary. Also, the reason for choosing the circular shape and red color is the branding of the city of Cologne.

6. Foils with printed methods templates can be conveniently rolled up and placed in the stand provided for them.
7. Since this space is designed to be very functional and dynamic, both metal circles, the stand for methods templates and the stand for prototyping that will be mentioned in the next point, are movable and can be used in any of the rooms and in other spaces, which are not necessarily the spaces of Futurelab.

8. Since in this room, people discuss or think for themselves; we created a playlist that consists of the sounds of “white noise” - because white noise contains different frequencies, it can mask other sounds, thereby reducing auditory distractions.

9. In the last room, intended for prototyping, we implemented different ways of storing various materials (paper, pens, legos,...) - wall shelves that can be detached and returned very quickly and the movable carts mentioned in the point earlier.

10. Since the prototyping room is also intended to be used in a very dynamic and playful way, it is designed to be used with the playlist consisting of background music in video games, as mentioned earlier.

client: City of Cologne

3rd semester of Graduate Studies
Köln International School of Design

mentors: Birgit Mager, Katja Trinkwalder and Anastasia Bondar

José Antonio Avila Villegas, Emilie Starch Bendsen,
Maximilian Quick, Omid Akbari Kharazi, Luis Ricardo Lamadrid Herrera