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A Lens into the Future of Retail

Our latest project, Pop Lab:

Imagine a store where all products can be downloaded and customised to your specific needs. An experience where you know the designer’s name and can connect with them directly to submit feedback and share your improvements.

Then, imagine if all the materials used to make your product were sourced locally requiring the least amount of transportation and every effort was made to ensure every product was designed to be repaired, reused or recycled.

This is the ambitious concept behind Pop Lab, a makerspace, retail store, collaborative learning space and gallery all rolled into one. Devised as a project by Fab Lab Chch and Clever Green Ltd, Pop Lab puts the theory of the circular economy into practice. Everything sold at Pop Lab is designed to be made on location, or produced by the consumer themselves.

“Just over the last two years, we’ve seen the level of product design within the Maker Movement begin to rival that of the big corporates”, says Bridget McKendry Trustee of the Fab City Aotearoa Trust and co-founder of Fab Lab Chch. “Open source 3D printers such as the RepRap are fast accelerating past expensive proprietary printers”.


“3D printers are just a gateway for what’s possible in terms of sustainable design” says Anthea Madill, director of Clever Green Ltd. “It’s really what they enable that’s the most important. Never before have we the consumers been so close to the design and manufacturing process - this is what makes it exciting”.

Madill has been raising awareness of the environmental impact of synthetic plastics through her project, Remix Plastic, by actively promoting alternatives and creative ways to reuse and upcycle. “Ultimately, it’s about designing waste out of the system” she says, “which is why it comes back to sustainable design”.

Pop Lab, a recipient of the Christchurch City Council Sustainable Innovation Fund, is a showcase of a potential future, where the lines between retail, manufacture and community makerspace are blurred. It’s a prototype of what a circular economy could look like.

“We are part of the global Fab Lab Network experimenting with circular design” says McKendry. “It may look like small beginnings now, but with the network growing exponentially, we may soon see the end of big box retail and a return to local manufacturing, or what’s now being coined Industry 2.0”.

Pop Lab is open at the Arts Centre until the mid February.

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