Nearly a century ago, Building 128 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard was a hub of military innovation—tens of thousands of workers toiling by the water, building parts for ships used in both World Wars. This month, the building reopens as New Lab, a hub for a different kind of innovation, an 84,000-square-foot space filled with 350 hardware engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs delving into robotics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology.
“This was state-of-the-art in manufacturing when it was built, and we started thinking about what the state of the art in manufacturing is now,” said David Belt, a real-estate developer who came to the project with his partner, Scott Cohen, in 2011. They decided that meant a place where 50 companies could rent designated office space under the 70-foot ceilings, snack on grain bowls with other New Lab-ers in tree-dotted, iron-framed, rainbow-colored communal work lounges, and share a full metal-and-wood shop, a 3-D printing lab, and digital manufacturing tools. The combination makes it a Field of Dreams for any designer without the high-tech resources to actually make prototypes meets a Soho House for the more bookishly inclined—a Brooklyn real-estate dream meets a pastiche of Silicon Valley.
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