POP UP LABs: spotting the Commons

The new frontier of social innovation is the possibility of creating open spaces, namely LABs, for the cultivation of culture, creativity, design, digital innovation, knowledge and deliverable outputs for the community.


The urban network is nowadays highly populated by any sort of LAB, but it is difficult to define what a LAB is and how it should works, as well as defining its governance method.

Certainly there are multiple varieties and typologies of LABs that differ substantially among them; however, there is a common quality that can be traced for all: a “social innovation LAB” is a melting pot for the fabrication of a social energy, in the sense that it is a space where citizens, machines, ideas and methods create together a tangible output that will eventually nourish the urban fabric.

The value of active citizenship is essential and pivotal for the functioning of the consequential spillover effect, as well as for granting a just and novel input within the chain of social factory.

In practice, the role of those people participating in a LAB, is the one of creating a sort of added value for the community.

We would also define such LABs as a space for redefining and designing the experience of a territory by its citizens, as well as for developing new leading approaches and methods for community growth.


Bringing this concept to the market has been one of the last marketing strategies also for enterprises, municipalities and universities that seek to maximise a certain impact on the territory through a prototypical “fast food” approach.

With different targets in mind, there is a long list of POP UP LABs that use a temporary start-up environment to focus on real-life deliverables. The idea is to create a friendly lab-like environment with a temporal constraint.

Here we have some examples:


It is a lab for the experimentation of new methods for living the urban space, through a “call for ideas” that gives the possibility to citizens of “opening the city” and exploiting the so called ghost spaces.



Also enterprises as banking corporations are now experimenting a strategy of self-marketing through activities based on the POPUP “Lab-ing”. Bruxelles is currently hosting one of these digital and futuristic LABs.


This Lab is an experimental venture, conceived as a space for ideation and informal collaboration, that should act as a catalyst for disciplines and vocations.


Part think tank, part design agency. It will envision a realistic future of health and well-being. Check it out for recent developments!