In an old pier on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, Autodesk—the design software company—invites artists, tinkerers, engineers, and makers to “design and build the future.” The company hosts a group it calls the “artists in residence” each year to build whatever they feel like in its workshop. At their disposal is just about any manufacturing tool any maker could hope for, from massive industrial 3D printers, to computer-controlled milling machines, woodworking tools, metalworking tools, and even a kitchen.
Quartz visited the lab and met some of 2015’s artists. We met Morehshin Allahyari, who was creating 3D models of the artifacts that ISIS has destroyed, and Zachary Howard, who is attempting to build a compact home eye exam that works with a regular smartphone.
The projects at Pier 9 range from the practical to the fantastical: Some have built simple updates to classic designs for chairs, tables, or knives, and others have 3D printed new arms for kids, topological maps of the city, or drone strikes. Howard also used his time with Autodesk to build a “synesthesia mask” to convert color into smells. One artist is even working on a personal bioreactor, which would allow anyone to print their own drugs at home.
The only thing Autodesk asks in return for using the space is that the artists put all the designs for their projects up on the web for anyone to download. To date, there have been over 650 projects created by 130 Pier 9 artists added to Instructables, an online design repository.