About Metalab

aus Metalab, dem offenen Zentrum für meta-disziplinäre Magier und technisch-kreative Enthusiasten.
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This is our entry for the Hackerspaces book, which will be released around 25C3. It will probably also serve as the default site for english visitors.

General Information

Hackerspace name: Metalab

Hackerspace tagline: open center for meta-disciplinary magicians and technical-creative enthusiasts

Hackerspace website: http://metalab.at

Hackerspace contact email (this might be you): core on metalab.at


Tell the story of the beginning of the hackerspace. How did you come up with the idea? How did you choose the name of your hackerspace? What was your original vision?

We had seen inspirational examples of hackerspaces at CCC and c-base in Germany, and missed a place like this in Vienna: a public living room or laboratory where people could meet and work with friends without having to go to a cafe, pub or work. The name came up because we wanted to have a laboratory, but since laboratories are usually focused on one thing and we try to have many different focuses we tought "meta" would perfectly describe that. Our Logo shows a Phonebooth representing old school technology with hackvalue and electrons in the back in tribute to technical (r)evolution.

What are some obstacles that you had to overcome at the beginning of your hackerspace when you were just getting started?

  • critical mass: Many people think, everything that does not exist yet is impossible. In an important early meeting, in which we decided to rent the room, we were about 30-40 people. Without this mass, it would have been risky financially.
  • basics, scouting: It can take a long time to establish the basics, like the real world space you have to rent. The wiki was extremely helpful in this phase. When someone found an interesting location, he created up a wiki page with the specs and then we would organize meeting with the real-estate agent or landlord. There is some risk that other apartment-hunters will take notice but at this stage one usually want to find comrades-in-arms, so keeping the process open makes a lot of sense.
  • renovation: We established the infrastructure - like power outlets, the kitchen and the floor - step by step, while actively using the space. This led to an endless Sokoban game. It was unavoidable, since we did not have the financial power to fix everything at once. Our advice is, if you can fix the basic infrastructure before you move in, do it.
  • organization: It took a long time until we had infrastructure for membership administration and (automatic) bank collection. Usually, nobody wants to do these "boring" tasks, because people prefer to hack or slack.

Describe your hackerspace. What do visitors to the space notice that is special about the space? What kind of tools and resources do you have at the space?

People will note that its a very creative space. Self-built machines, huge drawings on the walls, whiteboards where people express their thoughts. Many details that refer to the culture we all grew up with, fE the blinking Spaceinvaders in the Lounge.


  • Technical
    • We have a small but well equipped workshop
    • A photo laboratory (dark room)
    • Lots of electronic measurement tools like oscilloscopes and pattern generators, soldering irons, and other tools needed for electronics development
    • A professional etching tank
    • A CNC machine
    • Fast Network and Wlan Internetuplink
    • Audioequipment
    • Computers (lots)
  • Social
    • Library
    • Lounge / Smokers Room with Beamer
    • Well equipped Kitchen

How often do you meet? What happens at these meetings?

Our core/organization team (which is not clearly defined, so everyone can join and take up tasks) meets monthly to discuss matters relevant to the whole hackerspace, like current and future renovation projects and equipment purchases.

We have multiple special interest groups, which, of course, meet more regularly.

Describe a disaster that occurred in your hackerspace. (flood, lightning, accident or some such thing)

While renovating the lounge and drilling holes in the floor, we damaged the underfloor heating, resulting in water coming out of the hole. We were lucky, though: this heating system is low-pressure...

(any "better" [= more spectacular] accidents? anyone?)

What are some things that have come out of your hackerspace that you are most proud of?

There's the Led Matrix, a 72x48 blue led matrix. We have a twitter-enabled Fridge and a constantly-evolving RepRap.

Two of the smaller rooms have color-shifting ceiling lights, and one of them can even be set to exact RGB values.

Metalab was also the place where Soup (a "personal publishing" startup), and Graffiti Research Lab Vienna were founded.

Was there anything that you did that was essential to the start of your hackerspace? Do you have any advice for people who might be thinking of starting a hackerspace?

Don't give up if people tell you that it's not possible. Most people only believe in what they can touch. The same people (if they are geeks) will love the place once they can touch it.

Don't establish too many rules. Decide thing when you need to - not just in case. Humans are most productive when they do the things they want to do in an environment that encourages these things. Shared geeky interests can be a wonderful thing. which reminds me of that xkcd ... A hackerspace can approximate this environment very well if everybody cleans up at least his/her own dishes. (hackerspace inequality #1)

We found it crucial to choose a location in a rather central position in Vienna especially in regard of public transportation. In the outlying suburbs it's usually cheaper and the neighborhood might be less sensitive but it is a big advantage when people can drop by easily after or before work, university, highschool or during their nightlife/leisure time activities.

A geeky hackerspace doesn't mean it has to be restricted to be for coders or electronics folks only. We aimed to establish a bracing climate due to a plurality of interests, professions and genders, thus Metalab.

Don't underestimate the need for storage space and don't pile up junk if space is limited.


  1. Get members to tell a story or recount an adventure associated with the beginning of your hackerspac
  2. Draw a floor diagram.
  3. Include a manifesto.

checklist =

  • Info: The basics filled in above.
  • Text: About 500 words answering the questions above.
  • Photos: 5 or more photos of your hackerspace.
  • Logo: The logo of your hackerspace (svg)

Thanks! Please send all of this back to bre@hackerspaces.org and astera@hackerspaces.org and book@hackerspaces.org

This project is going to be awesome! We really cannot wait for your reply!

Bre Pettis NYCResistor