Northwestern University’s new on-campus innovation facility The Garage, which opened this month, has been billed as a hub for ideas and programming for students. The facility, designed by architecture firm Gensler, was built on the second floor of a recently completed parking garage.
“Every cool thing was started in a garage,” said Alicia Loffler, executive director of the university’s Innovation and New Ventures Office, citing companies like Apple and HP that got their starts in less-than-glamorous places.
The new facility — which beginning this fall will be open 24/7 — has more than 11,000 square feet of flexible space for workshops and classes, prototyping, 3D-printing, lounging and meeting. The space will host a quarter-long boot camp, as well as programs including mentoring, classes, workshops and events.
Loffler said she hopes the facility will serve as a jumping-off point for ideas that entrepreneurs can later take to places like 1871 to bring to the next level. Northwestern hopes to find an executive director for the facility by the end of summer, she said.
“We are not going to count the number of companies formed,” Loffler said. “What we want is [for] students from every single corner of the university to be able to come to the Garage, bond with entrepreneurs and create some great ideas.”
Todd Heiser, who led the design team at Gensler, said the facility will operate as a “third space” where entrepreneurs can get out of formal academic buildings and get creative.
“There’s a hackable part of a garage that allows you to do things you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do in your house,” Heiser said. “You can get a little messy. … You don’t have to worry so much about what it’s going to look like.”
Heiser said the design theme is based on aspects of garages, like garage doors and parking spaces, to play off themes of energy, traction and the ability to tinker.
“These students have great amenities, Northwestern is world-class,” he said. “What they don’t have is a place where they can come together and maybe experiment a little. … A place where things can explode a little bit.”