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Plenty of space for invention

Gui Cavalcanti, Artisan’s Asylum

Gui Cavalcanti, president of Artisan's Asylum.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Gui Cavalcanti’

Artisan’s Asylum has been called many things: hackerspace, vibrant artist’s community, new age factory, community workshop, makerspace, and even Santa’s workshop.

The 40,000-square-foot facility in Somerville fulfilled Gui Cavalcanti's dream of a shared space for small workshops with big tools — milling machines, lathes, sewing machines, welders, and more. Artists and engineers alike hack, build, and design in the DIY incubator, whether it's a toy developer creating a portable 3-D printer or a mod sculptor working with traditional media.

Cavalcanti, 26, is a robotics engineer who freely admits he started the cooperative for selfish reasons: He wanted a place to build his own robot. The founder and president of Artisan's Asylum decided to experiment. What if he shared the tools with other like-minded tinkerers?


Hundreds of people showed up for the open house two years ago, and since then, members have attracted $3 million in venture capital. "Artisan's Asylum has helped grow the local economy and brought new energy to the city," said Stephen Houdlette, Somerville economic development officer.

Meanwhile, Cavalcanti is busy creating that new robot, a rideable hexapod named Stompy that looks like a huge hydraulic spider.