Making VIVISTOP Orchard

Hoi Leong Lee · 107 ·

A few weeks into us opening VIVISTOP Orchard, and we are happy to see that we are starting to have some activities and children making things here!

But are you curious about how we started, and how we reached where we are?

Barely a few months ago, our space looked like this. There was nothing!

As the people that advocates creativity, how should we create this space, which in turn will also be a space that sparks creativity? This is a million-dollar question, but definitely we should be getting our hands dirty and making things!

The Process

We brought in a piece of equipment called the Shopbot to do this. It is a big machine that took us 3-4 days to carry the parts in and set it up.

Shopbot is a digital fabrication tool that enables you to send in your designs in 2D data, and it will cut the wood (or other materials) in exactly the way according to your design, even for complex shapes. With this, you can basically make your own furniture. And we set an ambitious goal to make the furniture that we use by ourselves.

With the help of an architecture startup partner call VUILD, we learned how to operate the machine, and were cutting, sanding, and assembling our tables and chairs. It was pretty hard work but we had fun too. It was an experience for me too – first time using an orbital sander (Google if you don’t know what it is)!

After a few days of hard work, we created these. Looks pretty cool, right? We wanted to create a modular furniture system that will be easy for children to take apart and re-assemble it in various forms, similar to Lego. Through this, we hope to provide a space where children can use their imagination to effect change to the environment, and also use this as a starting point to design add-ons and furniture using Shopbot.

But our first prototype has a problem – it was not stable enough! OMG.

I had a few guests visiting during our renovation phase that literally “fell off the chair”. There were also other design and usability issues too.

It was tough as we were trying to open the space soon, but our ambitious but unsuccessful first prototype means that we will not be able to open as we will have no furniture.

The audacious and creative team didn’t stop there. With the startup and maker spirit, we created a second prototype, with an added feature of it doubling up as a pegboard system for the space too. This is how our second prototype is now, and we are using it at our space.

In addition to the furniture, we also learned and made various things – from standee from laser cutter (thanks to our partner Lionsforge) and mini-signs using 3D printers.

Through this process of trying to make our space for the children, we learned a lot of things. I was in charge of sourcing sustainable wood for the project, and in the process learned about many aspects of wood such as the different types, the glue used, vapour emission, production process, sustainability certification and recycling issues. There are many skills involved in trying to make those – from the design skills to schdule planning, talking to partners, and so on. By doing it ourselves, fail and iterate, we also could appreciate the difficulty of making a piece of furniture as simple as a chair.

More than Just Making

The process of creating the space is a representation of the experience that we hope to provide to our children members at VIVISTOP Orchard. Some people might have the impression that it is no use to try to learn how to make, and see some work as low-level skills.

However, making is much more than that.

Mark Frauenfelder, the founding editor of the Make: Magazine, had an excellent explanation about how the maker spirit will bring positive change to the world. “There are too many things that we cannot control in the current world. The culture of Make is the philosophy of taking it back control into our hands. We cannot control politics nor economics. However, we can control what we make. Maker values this notion that there is something I can have control over.”

We are opened, but it does not mean that we will stop creating. It will be evolving continuously. In fact, we purposely left the space half-done. Going forward, we would like to involve the children to co-create the space with us! I’m sure in the process they will learn a lot, and come up with amazing ideas that we will bring them into real life.

Looking forward to welcoming more children to VIVISTOP Orchard! Book a trial to create with us if it is your first-time coming!