The Floating FabLab is an ambitious project that aims to address local Amazon community needs in a fully sustainable fashion. The project has achieved childhood, a stage it will zip through on its way to adolescence next year.
Throughout the autumn, the Floating FabLab team has striven to transition from the planning and administrative stage to the exciting application stage. Everyone has their role. Beno Juarez (Peru), founder and dreamer extraordinaire, has been traveling from Iquitos to Boston, accepting awards from the UN and hosting international interest meetings. More on that in a few days.
Slow down; a bit on the project in its infantile, conceptual stage: In 2008 Michael Leymarie (France) received funding to visit the Peruvian Amazon, where he met Beno and a team of architects. He proposed a floating Amazon town, sustainable in its operation and highly mobile due to detachable modular units. Easily replicable, the river could support many floating towns. Michael described it as “living transport.” Spaceships for the Amazon River.
The Floating FabLab intends to be a center for research into nature’s energy solutions, in the planet’s most ecologically bountiful region.
About fifteen people will live on board the pilot floating Lab, with another fifteen as support at fixed Labs in Nauta and Iquitos. Everyone involved in this exciting project–about fifty people from eighteen countries–is a volunteer.
Text by: Miriam Delirium.
The Floating FabLab originated as an idea in 2013. According to its website, the initiative will “create a digital fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab) that will navigate the Amazon River. It will provide local communities with access to technological tools that allow them to cope with their daily challenges with water, energy, health, food, education while at the same time, serve as a place for research and development to better understand the Amazon.” When completed, the Floating FabLab will consist of a network of about ten mobile Labs and ten stationary nodes that the floating Labs travel between. The network will stretch from Nauta, just south of Iquitos, into central Brazil, a length of 2,000km.
In collaboration with Project A+, their project management partner, Beno and his team have completed 20% of the development. They’ve secured support from CBA-MIT, the Fab Foundation, the Environment Ministry of Peru, SolidWorks, and many others. The pilot floater is under construction, and will launch from Nauta next year. The first major stationary node will be established at the Institute for Amazon Research in Iquitos. Fifteen people will live on board permanently, including the ship’s crew and education specialists on various issues from anthropology to computer science, and fifteen will fluctuate, including administrative personnel in the nodes.
FabLab Peru and FabLat, the network of Latin American Fab Labs, offered a free, online start-up workshop “open to participants from around the world, from different backgrounds, committed to the sustainability of the planet, who are creative, collaborative and willing to take on big challenges.” The workshop lasted four weeks, with each week focusing on a different practical hurdle in the creation of the Floating FabLab, such as the physical design of the boat and sustainable mobility solutions. The Floating FabLab is a response to the “urge to develop projects to enhance the conservation and sustainable development of natural and cultural resources.”
Text by: Miriam Delirium
Floating and responsive Module | Quistococha Iquitos, PERU, 2014
T5- FAU – Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú | Instructors: B.Miller , A.Calmell del S., B. Juarez
By Miriam Delirium
The Amazon River winds through Peru, Colombia, and northern Brazil, and the resulting swath of fecundity covers 5.5 million square kilometers across Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Taken as a whole, Amazonia is the most biologically diverse territory on the planet. I’m proudly sniping these facts from National Geographic Kids. Here’s a quote: “There are around 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 types of fish, 430 mammals and a whopping 2.5 million different insects. Wow!”
Major bummer that a fifth of the rainforest has already been destroyed because of deforestation due to industrial ranching and agriculture, infrastructure development, mining, logging, climate change, and oil exploration and extraction. NatGeo estimates that more than half of the world’s rainforests have been destroyed, making the remaining Amazon rainforest vitally important, not just for tree-huggers, but for anyone who likes breathing. The Amazon rainforest stores 17% of the world’s carbon, directly helping regulate the planet’s temperature. The fewer trees there are, the hotter this furnace will get. Amazonia is commonly referred to as the “Lungs of the Earth.”
In a 2014 study conducted by the Amazon Institute of People and Environment (Imazon), the leading challenge faced by conservationists in Brazil is not in fact corporate appropriation, but rather “the poor social conditions of its 24 million inhabitants.” NatGeo estimates that 400-500 indigenous tribes call the Amazon home, many of which have never experienced contact with the rest of the world. However, this is just a fraction of the overall population, which is undergoing much slower social progress than the rest of Brazil. In one of the world’s most important ecosystems, inhabitants often experience “lack of access to clean water, violence, illiteracy and limited opportunities to pursue a better life.” Beto Verissimo, one of the study’s authors and lead researcher at Imazon said, “The findings raise the question of whether we can really expect to protect the biodiversity of the Amazon if the people living there continue to struggle on the very basic measures that define the human experience.”
Introducing the Floating FabLab, which will cruise up and down the Amazon River, bringing education and access to hundreds of marginalized communities. Beno Juarez grew up in the Peruvian jungle and feels driven to contribute to the conservation of his home. He facilitated the founding of FabLab Lima in 2010, the first Fab Lab in Peru. “Nature inspired a special sensitivity and creativity, but I was also witness to the impact of terrorism in one of the poorest areas of my country,” Beno said in an interview with MAKE. “Nature and creativity, as opposed to terrorism and exclusion, would mark, years later, my vocation to connect innovation and inclusion.” His family relocated to Lima when Beno was a teenager, and he was able to compare his “sense of the jungle’s freedom with the extreme need of many families that, like [his], had to migrate to the capital.” He decided to devote his professional life to improving the quality of life for communities living in his beloved Amazon. He sees digital fabrication as the means to accomplish this, combining traditional artisan methods with efficient modern technological advances. He is inspired by nature to foster a sustainable paradigm for cultural and environmental health.