Taking it to the Streets

BMW Guggenheim Lab. New York

BMW Guggenheim Lab. New York

Today the Guggenheim Museum kicks off a six year commitment to catalyzing conversations on 21st century urban environments: BMW Guggenheim Lab.

Over the course of the Lab's life, three commissioned structures will travel to nine cities around the globe. Teams of programmatic curators in each will draw together artists, scientists, economists, architects, political leaders, environmentalists, musicians, educators and others to lead discussions on local development and growth issues.

Launching in a tiny slip of a city park at the lively intersection of Houston Street and Second Avenue on New York's Lower East Side, the Lab is a bold and ambitious step by the Guggenheim to radically redefine and expand its boundaries, both geographically and conceptually. Curated, designed, engineered and assembled by a group of thinkers from around the globe, the Guggenheim's willingness to engage partners from across a wide range of disciplines in the context of a long-term, open-ended project--six of the Lab's nine destination cities have yet to be named--yields a fluid, fresh sense of how to be a museum in today's world.

The New York Lab runs through October 16th. Its programming team has developed a calendar that includes a calibrated mix of heady thinking and playful entertainment, with events taking place onsite and off throughout the city. A few that caught my eye:

  • Conversation with Michiel Schwarz on Sustainism, a term he and co-author Joost Eifers coined to describe their approach to design and living (Friday, August 5th at 3 pm)
  • Presentation and Q+A with architect Elizabeth Diller on the idea of Comfort in the City--the focus of this iteration of the Lab (Friday, August 5th at 7 pm)
  • A talk with chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton, whose much-loved restaurant Prune is just down the street from the Lab (Friday, August 26th at 7pm)
  • Two offsite events with Lab team member Omar Freilla: tours of environmental degradation and reclamation in the South Bronx and Sunset Park, Brooklyn (September 9th and 15th at 2 pm)
  • A screening of NY Export: Opus Jazz, a film of the restaging of Jerome Robbins' 1958 ballet, followed by Q+A with NY City Ballet dancers Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi (Sunday, September 11th at 6 pm)
  • And best of all--Love Night--a brainy party hosted by neuroeconomist Paul Zak (who Fast Company has called Dr. Love), social psychologist Emanuele Castano and author, technologist and ITP Professor Kio Stark (Friday, September 30th at 7 pm)

BMW Guggenheim Lab is the cultural, intellectual and spiritual soulmate of another ongoing ambitious, multi-year, global collaborative endeavor--Intel and Vice Magazine's Creators Project--slightly more grown up, slightly more bookish, with the potential to be meaningfully influential.

It remains a bit unclear what specific results the Guggenheim hopes or expects to produce from the Lab. At this very early stage, however, this may simply be a reflection of the Lab's experimental nature, allowing space for outputs to emerge and evolve as the project unfolds. Given the caliber of the dynamic resources the museum has put into play, the possibilities--for it as an institution, the cities it visits and the partners with whom it works--are powerful indeed.

You can read more about the Lab and see before and after shots of the lot where the New York Lab is located here. The Lab's own Flickr stream is here. The Guggenheim's Lab curators, David van Leer and Maria Nicanor discuss the Lab in a video here, and a Fast Company interview with van Leer is here.  From New York this iteration of the Lab next travels to Berlin in partnership with the ANCB Metropolitan Laboratory and then in late 2012 onto Mumbai in partnership with Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum.

Photo: BMW Guggenheim Lab