At first glance, the red brick structure housing the VCU da Vinci Center’s new space seems orthodox. After crossing the threshold of 807 Cathedral Place, however, it’s apparent that students are entering a haven for creativity.
The facility, affectionately called “807” by students in the da Vinci Center entrepreneurship certificate program, opened its doors on Oct. 1. The two-story, 3500-square foot center for innovation cost approximately $400,000 to renovate.
“807 serves as an office and a workspace for students — a clubhouse if you will,” said da Vinci Center director Ken Kahn. “Students now have a place to go and connect across disciplines.”
Kahn said the space’s interior design and layout is intended to resemble the loft spaces utilized by New York City and West Coast startup companies.
The da Vinci Center program focuses on interdisciplinary innovation and entrepreneurship.
The center offers an undergraduate certificate program, as well as the nation’s first master’s degree in product innovation. Students in both tracks are selected through an application process.
Da Vinci Center classes are still located in the School of Engineering. The 807 space is designedto give students in the program an enterprising and collaborative work environment.
“It’s really nice because it’s not as busy as the library and it’s not just random people around you. These are people you’re around and work with all the time so it’s really fun,” said Swetha Gavirneni, a da Vinci product innovation graduate student.
807 contains two design studios, conference rooms, a coffee station and administrative offices. Student ideas, drawings and diagrams are liberally scrawled across the studios’ dry-erase walls. The tables, chairs and even hardwood floors are constructed from an assortment of recycled materials including glass-plated wooden doors and Coca-Cola bottles.
Virginia Wood, also a product development graduate student said the new facility’s high ceilings, open space, white walls and abundance of natural light helps invoke creativity in students.
“It’s a really good incubator for students,” Wood said. “It also gives you a lot of different perspectives from the other students here if you’re working on a project or need a second opinion.”
Currently 807 is restricted to da Vinci Center students and is open daily from 9 a.m. to midnight.
The new facility comes more than seven years after the founding of the da Vinci Center in 2007.
Kahn said the opportunity for the interdisciplinary collaboration the da Vinci Center promotes is intended to better prepare its students for the 21st century workforce.