Meet Dr. Bucky Lab

In July, Dr Bucky Lab was voted Teacher of the Year by the students of the Faculty of Architecture. But who is Dr Bucky Lab?

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Named after his brain-child, the fully mobile design workshop Bucky Lab, Dr. Marcel Bilow is an assistant professor at the faculty and is part of its Façade Research Group.


The Bucky Lab, which pops-up for two weeks every six months, is where students develop and built prototypes of their projects. They work with materials such as wood and steel and with tools ranging from saws and screws to drills. That’s two weeks of hands-on fun, according to Bilow, who has his own extensive collection of tools.


“I believe in always being prepared,” he says. And, it’s not just a cliche. He actually does. Around his neck is a small knife-blade, safely sheathed. His bag has a number of other things – a Leatherman, an all-purpose screwdriver, a wire cutter and so on. “A quarter turn of a screw can make your life so much better,” he says, pointing at the screwdriver.

“One of my colleagues was once complaining that his glasses were loose, it took me just a minute to solve his problem. It’s a little thing, but people are bothered by such little things for months because they don’t have the time to fix it,” he says.


On the topic of glasses, he has another revelation. His own glasses are completely screwless. Made by a German company called IC Berlin, they are designed to make each part detachable. “They are designed for disassembly,” he says, taking it apart for a demo. “Sometimes architecture is not easy to understand because the scale is tough to visualise so I always have something to illustrate new ideas and concepts. It helps students understand better,” he says. His bright yellow watch also doubles up as a classroom prop. Solar powered and radio controlled, the watch is an example of a well-designed integrated system.


It’s not all about the science though. The choice of the colour yellow was a sentimental decision. His first car back home in Germany was yellow, his kayak is yellow, and even though he has a dark blue Mercedes Benz now, he is happy to have his yellow Dutch license plate.


Walking us through a display of some of the most recent projects by his students, he says “Even though I always expect to be surprised, they always manage to surprise me further.” Next, we walk into the Bucky Cave, the basement storeroom for all of the lab’s tools and gadgets. His phone rings and the Indiana Jones soundtrack plays. A sci-fi, fantasy buff, Bilow also enjoys watching Mythbusters, a show that scientifically checks myths and movie scenes.


Having recently moved to Rotterdam, he is spending the summer renovating. His new house is “a dream workshop with a bed,” he says. He also runs a consultancy with two friends, and, in his spare time, he helps friends and former students with projects and tool queries. “I love this. I love my job. I don’t consider this work. That’s what I tell my students, if you don’t have fun doing it, there’s something wrong.”

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