Co.De. Lab NYC

Tiarnan Mathers
Arch 702B Spring 2023
Professor Sandra Manninger

MS in Architecture, Computational Technologies
New York Institute of Technology

New York City

I am a proud native of Queens, New York City, and the child of resilient Irish immigrants. My background is a blend of rich Irish traditions and the vibrant multiculturalism of Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world. The ultimate goal of the studio is to incorporate what we learn into our hometown or community. The priority is to improve the quality of life for our fellow residents, fostering a sense of community, and promoting sustainable development.


COVID-19 has had a major impact on life in New York City, transforming the dynamics of the bustling metropolis and influencing every aspect of urban life. The city, known as the city that never sleeps, faced an unprecedented crisis that tested its resilience.

The pandemic necessitated drastic changes in the way New Yorkers lived and worked. As one of the early epicenters in the United States, New York City saw stringent lockdown measures that closed down businesses, schools, and public spaces, leading to a profound quiet that was a stark contrast to its typical bustling streets.

Remote Working

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally transformed the concept of remote working, making it a mainstream mode of operation for many organizations around the world. Prior to the pandemic, remote working was often seen as a perk or an exception. Due to the health and safety measures during COVID-19, it became a necessity for a vast number of businesses. As remote working became a viable option for companies, the need for large office spaces in prime locations throughout New York City had to be reconsidered.

Vacant Office Spaces

The real estate market saw shifts as an increase in remote work leading to a reevaluation of office space needs and a migration from the city to suburbs. According to Cushman & Wakefield (commercial Real Estate agent) the office space vacancy rate in New York City is around 22% This figure is twice the Pre-Covid average.

Rent Controlled Apartments

Many entities are pushing for these vacant office space to be converted into apartments, but this is no easy feat. According to reports from the New York State Homes & Community Renewal (HCR) that there are already over 38,000 empty rent stabilized apartments vacant in NYC. One major issue with these apartments is the cost to refurbish them is not worth the rent owners would receive for them.

I do not believe converting office spaces to apartments would help the housing crisis in the long run. Instead, I believe the function of the vacant office spaces should be something that is sustainable.

Alternate Use

Despite the significant challenges from COVID-19, the city has demonstrated remarkable resilience. Many of the city’s efforts focused on steps towards both recovery and adaptation. The pandemic has left an indelible mark on New York City, but it has also opened up opportunities for reimagining and reinventing the future of this iconic city. Office spaces can be converted into a plethora program to revitalize the economy in New York City. Some of the options I explored for this project are:

  • Wellness Centers
  • Urban Farms
  • Event Spaces
  • Co-Working Spaces
  • Makerspaces

Artificial Intelligence Makerspace

Ultimately, I envision a novel kind of makerspace, one that stands at the crossroads of creativity and emerging technology. We are witnessing a world where artificial intelligence is rapidly advancing and reshaping the job landscape. In response to this, I aim to create a space where individuals can actively engage with artificial intelligence, integrating it into their work processes. Rather than seeing AI as a threat to employment, this space will empower users to collaborate with AI, leveraging its capabilities to enhance their work and secure their roles in an increasingly AI-driven world.

Co.De. Lab. NYC

In response to the shifting landscape of work culture and the abundance of unused office space in New York City, “Co.De. Lab. NYC” (Contemporary Design Lab NYC) is a visionary design lab and makerspace that aims to revitalize these spaces and foster a thriving community of artists, designers, and technologists. This collaborative hub seeks to explore the intersection of the growing influence of artificial intelligence in the creative process and contemporary design techniques.

The facilities at Co.De. Lab. NYC will be designed to inspire and accommodate a wide range of artistic pursuits, from digital fabrication and 3D modeling to traditional craftsmanship and materials exploration. The facility will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, offering a supportive environment for individuals and teams to experiment, iterate, and bring their visionary ideas to life.

As a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration and learning, the lab will host workshops, seminars, and guest lectures by leading industry experts. These events provide invaluable insights into the latest advancements in design and technology, while also nurturing a vibrant community of like-minded creatives united by their passion for innovation and artistic expression.

Co.De. Lab. NYC aspires to transform the city’s unused office spaces into thriving hubs of creative exploration, where artists, designers, and technologists can come together to shape the future of design and redefine the boundaries of human and artificial intelligence collaboration. By breathing new life into these spaces, the lab aims to contribute to the ongoing revitalization of New York City and celebrate its rich artistic and cultural heritage.

Venice Biennale

One example of the innovative work approach and the creative potential of our makerspace was the final project. For our studio, we set our sights on creating a unique artifact for the prestigious Venice Biennale. Utilizing artificial intelligence, we sought to merge elements from both Venice and our own hometown.

I started the process by using an image provided to us by the Biennale from the location in Venice where our Biennale exhibition will be taking place.

Section Concept

By using text based prompts, I generated various images of mazes as an abstract representation of the NYC subway. By using image based prompts, I was able to blend the context with the abstract design.

The image was converted into black & white to easily manipulate in the next program.

Once the image was in the software, we were able to generate a 3D model from a 2D image. The software allows users to then modify and sculpt the model. This is where we experimented with technique and strategy.

Once comfortable with the strategy and technique, we moved towards generating the artifact.

Column Design Concepts

Similar to the previous example, we chose to explore the concept of the maze, as an abstract representation of the New York City subway system. However, we shifted our focus from the interior space of the Biennale to a piece of the structure from the building: the column. In doing so, we intended to symbolically portray the NYC subway system’s pivotal role in supporting the city’s life and movement, similar to how a column supports a building. This metaphor serves to highlight the subway’s crucial function in facilitating the transportation and mobility of millions of people.

Column Outputs

Final Design Section

Again, the image was converted into black & white to easily manipulate in the next program.

2D Image to 3D Model Generation

After successfully transforming the 2D image into a 3D model, all that was left was to refine the model and prepare it for production. The majority of the design was accomplished beforehand, allowing us to focus on polishing the final details within the software. This streamlined the transition from the design stage to production.

Column Fabrication

By opting for an additive manufacturing method, specifically 3D printing, this allowed us to accurately and efficiently translate our digital design into a tangible, three-dimensional form.

Biennale Artifact

Given the size limitations of the Biennale artifact, and considering the intended interaction with our Sony Aibo Ai{n}u, the maze design wasn’t as prominent as we desired. To address this issue and make a more impactful statement, we isolated the column head and opted to print it at the maximum size permitted. This allowed us to showcase the labyrinth design in all its intricate detail, truly highlighting its significance.

The Knicks Labyrinth

“Knicks’ Labyrinth” exemplifies the harmonious integration of artificial intelligence-generated imagery and the artistic vision of its creator. Drawing inspiration from both textual and visual cues, this innovative sculpture embodies the essence of the New York City subway tunnel system through its shape, while paying homage to the city’s beloved basketball team, the New York Knicks through its color.

The piece began its journey with images of the Biennale and AI-generated text prompts describing a column maze and texture. The prompts were then utilized to generate 2D images, which were subsequently blended together with the original Biennale image. The creative process resulted in a distinctive hybrid column for the Biennale that serves as an abstract representation of the intricate network of subway tunnels that forms the backbone of New York City’s transportation infrastructure.

The vivid blue hue of the 3D model was chosen to represent the iconic color of the New York Knicks. This color scheme not only enhances the visual appeal of the artwork, but injects a sense of local pride and identity.

The interplay of light and shadow across the textured surface of the column evokes the sense of depth and complexity one might experience when navigating the labyrinthine tunnels of the city’s underground transport system.

In its entirety, “Knicks’ Labyrinth” is a captivating fusion of art and technology, embodying the spirit of the bustling metropolis it represents. The convergence of AI-generated content with the artist’s vision has given rise to a unique and powerful visual language, encapsulating the essence of New York City’s urban landscape and its enduring connection to the beloved New York Knicks.

Knicks’ Labyrinth pictured with New York City and the Empire State Building in the background.

-Thank you-