BMW Guggenheim Lab

BMW launches their bold six-year-long program to dissect urban culture


Consistent with BMW’s longstanding cultural initiatives, this week launched the New York leg of BMW Guggenheim Lab, an exploration of issues regarding contemporary urban life. The six-year worldwide tour will reach nine cities to encourage international engagement from the public through free programs focused on contemporary urban challenges, all taking place within location-specific semi-permanent structures.

Over its duration, the Lab will unveil three distinct structures—each designed by a different architect—all in conjunction with three thematic two-year-long cycles. Hosting various free programs (think-tanks, public forums, experiments) the Lab is intended to function as a temporary community center, as well as a hub for new ideas about “solutions for city life.” By operating as an open framework, the Lab’s esteemed team of specialists—all from a range of disciplines—invites locals to serve as “lab partners” to work together to devise relevant and necessary solutions by ordinary people for ordinary people. This approach sheds light on the responsibility civilians have to their cities.

The first cycle, “Confronting Comfort,” takes a look at “notions of individual and collective comfort and the urgent need for environmental and social responsibility.” Currently located on the edge of Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood at Houston Street and 2nd Avenue, “Confronting” will remain in New York until 16 October 2011, when it will migrate to Berlin and then later to Mumbai. Working in the context of each city, the Lab’s aim is to develop site-specific solutions that relate to the theme in question. When the first cycle concludes in 2013, the Guggenheim will host an exhibit to show the Lab results.

Designed by Tokyo architects Atelier Bow-Wow, this first cycle’s structure “is a lightweight and compact two-story ‘traveling toolbox.'” The semitransparent upper portion of the carbon-fiber structure holds the elements and tools used in the Lab’s programs, sitting above 2,200 square feet of open space for the public. To fuel those involved in the New York Lab, Brooklyn-based restaurant Roberta’s (a CH fave) operates the cafe on site.

To stay connected, visit BMW Guggenheim Lab’s website to post your ideas, check out the “What’s Happening” page event calendar and programs, as well as the link to participate in “Urbanology,” an online (and onsite) game that addresses the “issues that arise when cities grow and inhabitants try to institute lasting change.” If you’re in New York, visit the Lab until it moves in October. Otherwise keep your fingers crossed and an eye out for when the BMW Guggenheim Lab is transplanted to a city near you.