Communities talking about their homes: BMW Guggenheim Lab

Today at Houston and 2nd Avenue, the BMW Guggenheim lab will be unveiled to the citizens of NYC. This project, which is a collection of designers, architects, artists, scientists, etc, has been established to create roaming “think tanks” that ask communities simple questions about how they live and, more importantly, how they want to live. By pulling together innovators in a variety of disciplines and engaging the public, these “labs” hope to offer real solutions to cities as they develop strategic plans.

The BMW-Guggenheim project lasts for six years with 3 mobile structures centered on specific themes. Each structure goes to 3 cities over a 2 year period.  The inaugural destination: NYC where the collective will be “Confronting Comfort—exploring notions of individual and collective comfort and the urgent need for environmental and social responsibility.” (NYC structure designed by Atelier Bow-Wow out of Japan)

Okay, art talk aside, what does this mean exactly? Simply, how do cities define and design for community comfort and convenience. And what are the consequences of those design solutions. As one of the advisors said in the intro video on their website — how do the notions of private comfort and public comfort collide.

Example:  Transportation efficiency questions including: Comfort of travelling in our personal car versus personal time lost in traffic versus air pollution?  Also, why should we give up personal comfort to sit on a train or bus when we are happier people in our own space? And what if you live in a city where the consumption of oil makes sure all of us have jobs?    

By providing a variety of forums (films, speakers, interactive sessions), BMW Guggenheim Lab seeks to gather together disparate voices to invigorate and reconsider what public space means to a generation of people who think that the anonymity social networking is a primary source of information sharing.  (Here is a  calendar of events.)

Once this show closes, it will then travel to Berlin and Mumbai. (Won’t it be interesting to see how notions of comfort in Mumbai differ from those in NYC?) Afterwards, the installations, videos, and information collected will be showcased in a solo show at the Guggenheim NYC.

I have to say that the Guggenheim has pulled together an amazing board of advisors including an Argentinian composer and conductor, Liz Diller (designer of the High Line, USA), a theoretical psychologist (UK), a major of an African city (Zimbabwe), former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, an economist (USA), an artist (Thailand), and an entrepreneur (China). And this doesn’t even include the content experts or the architects who have designed the migratory labs.

In short, this is a project created in Joy-Heaven.

I do wish that this were coming to Houston because I feel like we not only have many typical urban issues that could be discussed (environment, transportation, diversification of industry to name a few) but we also have a community of real innovators, ourselves. The largest healthcare complex in the world. Rocket scientists. Entrepreneurs. And did I mention we are diverse? More diverse than any other city I have lived in.  While NYC may have a higher per capita income and more degrees per person than 90% of our citizens, I feel like that might be a disadvantage. True collaboration is not just about what you study and what you do for your job but where you come from and how you see the world. For that reason, I think that the NYers could use a little Houston in their project. Maybe I will just have to go and check it out.

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