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The Virtual Lab: Scientists will be able to engage and influence discovery from beyond the confines of the laboratory.

The lab as we know it is undergoing a complete transformation--what used to be physical is now becoming virtual. Lab benches are slowly being replaced by data, and also by the computers and infrastructure used to interpret that data. Instead of making physical space for specialized laboratories and equipment, institutions around the world are grappling with how to build virtual space and computing capacity to access the tsunami of data available to them. And then, just how to use this data to fuel innovation.

The new virtual lab will be a hub for learning--flipping the earlier model of an isolated, protected and private laboratory into one that is open, public and easily accessible. I imagine a time in the not-so-distant future, when a person sitting in Vienna will be able use new virtual technologies to operate a drone from inside a lab in New York, while a graduate student in Palo Alto looks on.

This new lab won't only engage people inward. It will transmit data out--connecting academic communities, industry and government agencies in new productive partnerships. As exploration becomes less linear and singular, scientists will be able to engage and influence discovery from beyond the confines of the laboratory, through a place that easily morphs to test, adjust and manipulate various new technologies, networks and systems.

On academic campuses, public access and public space will combine with purpose-designed maker spaces to create an entirely new immersive student experience--a student experience that is not limited to students. The new lab will be about face-to-face engagement across physical boundaries: a 21st-century forum comprised of think tanks, maker spaces, workplaces and gathering spaces.

What does this shift toward this new kind of science mean? As technology takes on an increasingly greater share of the work, not only by automating repetitive processes in testing and experimentation, but also in analyzing the results, what happens to us? I realize this sounds frightening. But I'm optimistic. I think this shift will create real opportunities for architects to explore ways that the built environment can not only become an interface between people and technology, but can also connect us and reinforce our shared humanity.

By Brian Kowalchuk, FAIA, LEED AP, Global Director of Design, HDR

Brian Kowalchuk, FAIA, LEED AP, is Global Director of Design, HDR. Throughout his career, Brian has transformed complex programs into highly functioning and striking facilities that advance the missions of leading science and technology organizations. He embraces the inherent challenges of high-performing technically advanced buildings to develop architecture that creates connections among people, place and technology. In recognition of these efforts, he has received numerous AIA Awards, as well as seven prestigious Lab of the Year Awards from Laboratory Design and R&D Magazine. A frequent guest speaker at industry conferences, including the Lab Design Conference, his work has been featured in a wide range of professional journals including Architecture Magazine, Interior Design Magazine, Contract, BioExecutive and Fast Company.

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Title Annotation:Laboraory Design: Lab Vision
Author:Kowalchuk, Brian
Publication:Laboratory Equipment
Date:Apr 1, 2019
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