What Is the Lab?

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The BMW Guggenheim Lab was a mobile laboratory about urban life that began as a co-initiative of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the BMW Group. From 2011 to 2014, the Lab traveled to New York, Berlin, and Mumbai. Part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space, the Lab’s goal was the exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and ultimately the creation of forward-thinking visions and projects for city life. Through the lens of the themes Confronting Comfort, Making, and Privacy and Public Space, this global project explored how people relate to cities and public space today.

Led by international, interdisciplinary Lab Teams—groups of emerging talents in the areas of urbanism, architecture, art, design, science, technology, education, and sustainability—the Lab addressed issues of contemporary urban life through free programs, projects and public discourse. The Lab launched in New York (August 3–October 16, 2011); traveled to Berlin (June 15–July 29, 2012); and then opened at multiple sites in Mumbai (December 9, 2012–January 20, 2013). The project concluded with an exhibition presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (October 11, 2013–January 5, 2014). Titled Participatory City: 100 Urban Trends from the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the exhibition (October 11, 2013–January 5, 2014) spotlighted major themes and ideas that emerged from the Lab in each of its three locations.

The New York Lab was located in First Park, a New York City Parks property at Houston and Second Avenue, on the border between the Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods. Programs developed by the New York Lab Team included tours, workshops, debates, roundtable discussions, screenings, performances, experiments, and “Comfort Series” lectures by such urban luminaries as Saskia Sassen, Elizabeth Diller, and Juliet Schor.

In Berlin, the Lab was located in Prenzlauer Berg in the Pfefferberg complex and was presented in cooperation with ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory. There, the Berlin Lab Team offered free, participatory programs that focused on the importance of "making" to activate urban change. The Berlin Lab’s 97 talks, 101 workshops, 14 screenings, 5 special events, and 27 citywide explorations offered practical ways to empower residents with tools and ideas for shaping their urban environments.

During the Lab’s stay in Mumbai, the Mumbai Lab Team created a series of projects, academic and participatory studies, and design proposals that reflected the unique conditions and challenges of Mumbai. Over six weeks, the Lab, presented in collaboration with the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, offered 165 free programs, including design projects, surveys, tours, talks, workshops, and film screenings. The central location of the Lab was on the grounds of the museum in Mumbai’s Byculla neighborhood; additionally, nearly half of the public programs were held at satellite locations throughout the city, making the Lab available to a wide range of audiences and communities.

Learn more about Participatory City, the Lab’s concluding exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum.

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