BMW Guggenheim Lab explores contemporary urban life in New York

New Yorkers have just a couple of weeks more to visit the BMW Guggenheim Lab. Calling itself “a mobile laboratory traveling around the world to inspire innovative ideas for urban life,” the free event combines games, films, exhibitions, experiments to look at new ways to understand the urban environment and the process of building the city. Visitors can play the game Urbanology, participate in workshops, view film screenings and conceptual displays, and enjoy organic local food at the Lab cafe.

The event has started in New York and will visit a total of 9 cities through 2016; the next planned stops are Berlin and Mumbai. The theme of the Lab’s first two-year cycle is “Confronting Comfort,” exploring questions about how urban environments can be more responsive to people’s needs and how to balance notions of modern comfort with the need for environmental and social responsibility.

The building itself is particularly interesting; it’s a carbon fiber structure built as a “traveling toolbox” that can be reconfigured to accommodate lectures, workshops, gatherings and other events with movable seating, props and AV equipment. In New York it’s been installed in a vacant space between two existing brick buildings.

A typical afternoon will find several things happening in the large central space. In one half may be a speaker explaining the Testing, Testing! program, examining the psychological effects of public spaces near the lab, or a film screening or guided discussion, while at the other end grade-school children play the Urbanology game, using game pieces to imagine what an ideal city would look like. Beyond the Lab gates, heavy traffic maneuvers around construction projects on Houston Street and pedestrians glance through the gates as they go to get groceries or head to work.

The Lab runs through October 16 on New York’s Lower East Side — which itself is a good example of a dyanmic urban environment that merits a thoughtful look.