BMW Guggenheim Lab Site Officially Returned to the City of New York, Transformed into Community Park.
New York/Munich, December 13, 2011. Officials of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation have officially returned the East Village site that was the inaugural home of the BMW Guggenheim Lab to the City of New York. The site, located at First Park (Houston Street at 2nd Avenue), a New York City Parks property, has been transformed into a community park, and plans are in place to continue to use the space for cultural programming.
For 53 days beginning in August 2011, the BMW Guggenheim Lab—a combination think tank, public forum, and community center—operated at the site, which was improved as a result of the project. The Lab will open in Berlin in May 2012 before traveling to Mumbai. Updates from the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s journey will be posted regularly on the website, bmwguggenheimlab.org, and the official blog, Lab | Log.
At a meeting last week, Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, discussed the highlights and accomplishments of the BMW Guggenheim Lab with Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and other officials, and reviewed the achievements that emerged from the Lab’s free public programs related to important urban issues.
Richard Armstrong stated, “We are deeply grateful to the City of New York for joining with us in this adventure by allowing a Parks & Recreation property to be the inaugural site of the BMW Guggenheim Lab. We were convinced that the vitality and creativity of this dense urban East Village location would be the ideal place to launch this experiment. Thanks to the understanding and co-operation of the City, this prediction was realized beyond our best hopes.”
Adrian Benepe stated, “The BMW Guggenheim Lab inspired people throughout New York to think more imaginatively about what it means to live in a city and how we all shape the urban future, while bringing life to a formerly closed-off, empty lot. It is a testament to the spirit of the BMW Guggenheim Lab that it has left behind a better public space than it originally found, and the Parks Department, residents, and the City at large are grateful to the Guggenheim and BMW for their work. A permanent, tangible improvement is now added to the intellectual and social benefits the Lab gave the people of our city.”
First Street Green, a neighborhood volunteer group, celebrated the opening of the new East Village community space on December 10, with free public activities, including a board game and visioning exercise to generate ideas for future programming in the park and a “wishing wall” demonstrating the power of community groups and neighborhoods. The space may become a potential site for art installations and performances in the future. The BMW Guggenheim Lab’s commitment to strengthening urban communities includes permanent improvements to the once-vacant lot, including the stabilization and paving of the site, replacement of the sidewalks, and new wrought-iron fencing and gates.
BMW Guggenheim Lab New York Findings
The Lab’s wide range of programs encouraged community engagement and offered insight about today’s dense and changing urban environments, including the need for: the increased activity and involvement of community and neighborhood groups to institute urban change; stronger personal relationships and social interaction within cities to help achieve community cohesiveness; an increased focus on the reuse and revitalization of existing physical and organizational structures; and a growing interest in understanding urban interactions through the use of open-sourced data and models.
The BMW Guggenheim Lab New York received a highly positive response from the public, many of whom have praised its ability to bring individuals together, evoke a sense of community, generate positive energy, provoke questions and then listen to what people have to say, and ignite dialogue that can continue on long after the departure of the physical Lab structure.
The Lab’s interactive Urbanology game, which encourages participants to think about key challenges and opportunities of city life, remains accessible on the BMW Guggenheim Lab website and continues to expand the dialogue beyond the usual players of architects, policy makers and planners and empowering individuals and regular citizens to have a voice and take part in these discussions.
From August 3 to October 16, the BMW Guggenheim Lab New York attracted 56,000 visitors from 66 countries, and 400,000 users visited bmwguggenheimlab.org. The Lab also received 45,000 Facebook likes and more than 40,000 YouTube views, and more than 3,000 people have submitted ideas for the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s interactive logo. Urbanology has been played more than 26,000 times at the Lab and online.
Housed in an innovative mobile structure designed by Tokyo-based architects Atelier Bow-Wow, the Lab offered 58 talks, 48 workshops, 28 screenings, 24 special events, 21 excursions, and nine fieldwork sessions. Developed by a New York Lab Team and Guggenheim curators, the programming – all centered around the theme of “Confronting Comfort” – was designed to engage the diverse audiences that visited the Lab and generate data, information, and ideas about how to improve city systems and social and environmental sustainability.
During its six-year run, which will conclude in late 2016, the BMW Guggenheim Lab will travel to nine cities in three successive cycles, each with its own distinct theme and architectural structure, to help raise awareness of important urban challenges and yield sustainable benefits for cities around the world. The next stop for the Lab is Berlin (May 24 to July 29, 2012), followed by Mumbai in late 2012.
The BMW Guggenheim Lab is curated by David van der Leer, Assistant Curator, Architecture and Urban Studies, and Maria Nicanor, Assistant Curator, Architecture.