On Oct. 1, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum and BMW AG announced their collaboration in a six-year series of international, traveling laboratories that will investigate concepts and designs for overcoming the challenges future cities will face.  

A deliberately open-ended and "robustly" funded project, according to Guggenheim Foundation director Richard Armstrong, the BMW Guggenheim Lab is conceived as both a think-tank and a physical structure that will move from city to city, combining architectural installation with site-specific events and educational programming.

  • This diagram illustrates one cycle of the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

    Credit: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

    This diagram illustrates one cycle of the BMW Guggenheim Lab.
Three consecutive lab cycles of two years each will take place during the project period, and each lab will travel to three different cities around the world. Each independently themed cycle will be designed by a different architecture and graphics team. An advisory committee of internationally renowned experts in the creative, academic, and scientific fields will nominate a four-member, multidisciplinary team in each city that will collaboratively develop programs, events, and concepts for its local lab.

The first lab, themed "Confronting Comfort: The City and You," will examine ways to make urban environments more responsive to human needs, ways for people to feel at ease in urban environments, and how to balance human comfort with environmental responsibility. Tokyo-based architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow will design the first BMW Guggenheim Lab, and Seoul-based graphic design firm Sulki & Min will create its graphic identity.

The 5,000-square-foot project will open in an as-yet-unidentified North American city in late summer 2011, and then will be dismantled for its journey to the next city. According to Armstrong, the subsequent stops have not yet been selected, but the remaining two likely will be in Europe and Asia. The cycle will culminate in an exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York exploring the issues that were broached, addressed, and presented at the lab's different venues.

During the press conference announcement, BMW Guggenheim Lab curator David van der Leer, the Guggenheim's assistant curator of architecture and design, commented on the necessity for museums to move beyond their own walls. "The BMW Guggenheim Lab allows us to zoom out from the design fields to a more expansive, post-disciplinary view of the city, and then back in again on the problems, challenges, and chances offered by urban landscapes around the world."

Lab co-curator Maria Nicanor, also an assistant curator with the museum, added that the projects will connect with each neighborhood they inhabit and become places for experimentation, inquiry, and dialogue.

Watch a YouTube video about the first BMW Guggenheim Lab theme "Confronting Comfort."