Active matter embraces systems that self-organize at different length and time scales, often exhibiting turbulent flows apparently deprived of spatiotemporal coherence. Here, we use a layer of a tubulin-based active gel to demonstrate that the geometry of active flows is determined by a single length scale, which we reveal in the exponential distribution of vortex sizes of active turbulence. Our experiments demonstrate that the same length scale reemerges as a cutoff for a scale-free power law distribution of swirling laminar flows when the material evolves in contact with a lattice of circular domains. The observed prevalence of this active length scale can be understood by considering the role of the topological defects that form during the spontaneous folding of microtubule bundles. These results demonstrate an unexpected strategy for active systems to adapt to external stimuli, and provide with a handle to probe the existence of intrinsic length and time scales.Active nematics consist of self-driven components that develop orientational order and turbulent flow. Here Guillamat et al. investigate an active nematic constrained in a quasi-2D geometrical setup and show that there exists an intrinsic length scale that determines the geometry in all forcing regimes.