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BMW Guggenheim Lab

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a collaboration between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the BMW Group. It is an interdisciplinary mobile laboratory that visited three cities around the world between 2011 and 2013. The lab is part urban think tank, part community center, and part gathering space, and explores issues of urban life through public programming and discourse.[1] Three different structures were to house the lab over the life of the project, each of which would travel to three cities. The lab has an advisory committee of experts and is operated by a lab team.

The Lab was expected to travel to nine cities over the course of six years. In 2013, however, BMW ended its support of the project, and the project ended in 2014, with an exhibition in New York.[2]

Concept, organization and structures

The concept behind the lab was developed by David van der Leer, assistant curator, architecture and urban studies, and Maria Nicanor, assistant curator, architecture, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The lab's advisory committee is composed of internationally renowned experts in a range of fields and nominates members for each city's lab team, an interdisciplinary group that will help create the programming for that location.[3][4]

Three different structures were to house the lab over the life of the project, each of which could be moved and would travel to three cities. Only one structure was built. It was designed by the Tokyo-based architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow. Seoul-based graphic designers Sulki & Min created the graphic identity for the project, including an interactive logo that changed over the course of the project.[5][6]

The lab's three-city cycle was designed around the theme Confronting Comfort, which explores ways of making urban environments more responsive to people's needs, striking a balance between individual and collective comfort, and promoting environmental and social responsibility. The program was designed to proactively engage residents from each city, and participants on the Internet and from around the world, in free programs and experiments, and it addressed ideas and issues of particular relevance to each city.[7] The Advisory Committee members are: Daniel Barenboim, Elizabeth Diller, Nicholas Humphrey, Muchadeyi Masunda, Enrique Peñalosa, Juliet Schor, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Wang Shi.[3][4]

New York City

The lab was open from August 3 to October 16, 2011, in New York City's East Village and was attended by over 54,000 visitors from 60 countries.[6] Members of the New York Lab Team were Omar Freilla, founder and coordinator of Green Worker Cooperatives, Bronx, New York; Charles Montgomery, Canadian journalist and urban experimentalist; Olatunbosun Obayomi, Nigerian microbiologist and inventor; and architects and urbanists Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman, founders of Zones Urbaines Sensible, Rotterdam. The first Public Programs Manager in New York City was Rosanna Flouty.[8]


From June 15 to July 29, 2012, the lab was open in Pfefferberg, a complex of galleries and artist studios in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin.[9] Members of the Berlin Lab were José Gómez-Márquez, program director for the Innovations in International Health Initiative (IIH) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Italian architect and engineer Carlo Ratti, who directs the MIT Senseable City Lab; Berlin-based artist Corinne Rose, who works with photography and video and teaches at the Bern University of the Arts, Switzerland; and Rachel Smith, principal transport planner with AECOM, based in Brisbane.[6][10] The programming of the Berlin Lab focused on four main topics: Empowerment Technologies (Gómez-Márquez), Dynamic Connections (Smith), Urban Micro-Lens (Rose) and the Senseable (SENSEable) City (Ratti).[citation needed]


The lab opened in Mumbai, India on December 9, 2012 and ran until January 20, 2013. The central location was on the grounds of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai’s Byculla neighborhood, with additional satellite locations around the city.[11] The lab's team consisted of Aisha Dasgupta, a British demographer based in Malawi; Neville Mars, a Dutch architect based in China; Trupti Amritwar Vaitla, an architect and urban transport designer from Mumbai; and Héctor Zamora, a Mexican artist based in Brazil.[12] Along with neighborhood-specific public programming, the Mumbai Lab program included participatory research studies and design projects, including a competition to redesign Mumbai's Kala Nagar Junction.[13][14]

Final exhibition

The program concluded with an exhibition, Participatory City: 100 Urban Trends from the BMW Guggenheim Lab, which was on view at the New York museum from October 2013 through January 5, 2014.[2] The exhibition featured photos and videos from the Lab's public programs and displayed 100 terms representing the "most-talked about words" during the Lab's activities in New York, Berlin, and Mumbai.[15]


  1. ^ McHugh, Sharon. "BMW Guggenheim Lab to Launch in NYC", World Architecture News, May 17, 2011, accessed January 23, 2012
  2. ^ a b Vogel, Carol. "BMW Ends Support for Guggenheim Lab Project", The New York Times, July 2, 2013
  3. ^ a b Carol Vogel, "A Lab on a Mission", The New York Times, May 6, 2011
  4. ^ a b "Six-Year Collaboration to Examine Contemporary Urban Issues in Nine Cities Around the World – International Advisory Committee Selects New York BMW Guggenheim Lab Team – Design of First Mobile Laboratory", Associated Press, May 6, 2011
  5. ^ "BMW Guggenheim Lab to Launch in New York City on August 3 Before Traveling to Berlin and Asia", Guggenheim Foundation, May 6, 2011, accessed January 23, 2012
  6. ^ a b c Vogel, Carol. "Urban Lab Heads East", The New York Times, October 27, 2011, accessed January 23, 2012
  7. ^ "What Is the Lab?", The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved April 9, 2012
  8. ^ Boscawen, Rosanna. "Confronting Comfort at the BMW Guggenheim Lab", The New York Observer, August 8, 2011
  9. ^ "Following Threats, BMW Guggenheim Lab Finds a New Berlin Location", The Atlantic Cities, April 3, 2012
  10. ^ "BMW Guggenheim Lab Berlin to Open in May 2012", Dexigner, November 9, 2011, accessed January 23, 2012
  11. ^ The BMW Guggenheim Lab Gets a Mumbai Makeover,, October 22, 2012
  12. ^ "BMW Guggenheim Lab to Launch in Mumbai",, accessed October 24, 2012
  13. ^ BMW Guggenheim Lab Mumbai to Open December 9, 2012,, October 22, 2012
  14. ^ Six designs selected as solutions for congested Kala Nagar junction, Times of India, January 18, 2014
  15. ^ BMW Guggenheim Lab Comes to an Early End, Architectural Record, October 17, 2013.

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