One of the most exciting parts about this project will be to watch the different faces that the Lab takes on as it moves from city to city. Though the physical structure will remain the same for the first three cities, its relatively naked, unassuming aesthetic is no accident: the personality of the Lab will ultimately be defined by what happens inside and around it.
The context—the culture of the respective cities, the variety of visitors each will spur—will play a huge role in this metamorphosis. Equally significant will be the Lab Team directing the programming, and the synthesis of the individual members’ unique interests, skills, and visions.
Last week the Berlin Lab Team was announced, and team members are already deep into the planning for the Lab’s run there in the spring.
BMW Guggenheim Lab cocurator Maria Nicanor is heading up the curatorial role for the Berlin Lab, and said it is very clear that the Lab will look and behave much differently than it did in New York.
“The team in Berlin is very much about doing and making things. As much as they appreciate urban theory and general discussion around the topics of cities, they feel a lot like it comes down to doing things with your hands, and that people need to feel empowered to do something with their hands,” Maria told me over Skype from Berlin.
“They see the lab in New York as more of a theoretical hub, where a lot of thinking and discussion happened. That’s definitely going to carry on into the Berlin Lab… but, because they see the Berlin lab as the ‘doer lab,’ they see it as a nice progression. It’s almost the process that you would go through when you do anything—first you think about it, and then you do it, right? So they like to see themselves as that second step fitting conceptually into the cycle of three cities,” she said.
Unlike in New York, where Lab Team members parachuted in from their respective corners of the world and had just two and a half weeks to pack in their programming, the entire team will be present in Berlin for the entirety of the Lab’s ten-week run.
That means that their programming will be integrated and will complement each other’s based on daily themes. The structure of the schedule will comprise a lecture, workshop, and then a fun event, all based around a single topic each day.
Perhaps most exciting than the differences, however, are the accidental similarities that are appearing between the Berlin and New York labs.
“It’s interesting for me to see the continuation of certain topics,” said Maria.
Though the curators have given no directive as to which topics the team should cover, she said, there are undeniable similarities between the issues the New York and Berlin Lab teams have gauged as important.
“The idea of the open-source participatory urbanism is very much part of the discussions in Berlin and will be very present throughout the programs. I think it proves in a way that this was one of the most important points in New York, as we see it pop up again here. There’s a lot of interest in the whole sharing culture, very much what Juliet Schor’s whole talk was about,” she said.
“There’s also the interest in the psychological component that we saw in New York, and how it’s important to react to this emotional side of cities and how you feel emotionally—not only to be rational about it, about infrastructure, but also about how it makes you feel and how it effects your social interactions.”
And perhaps most importantly, she said: “I think the Lab Team is exceptional at balancing each other… they’re very supportive of each other. They really are truly collaborating.”
Over the coming weeks we will feature interviews with each of the Lab Team members to get a sneak peek of what we can expect from their programming during the Lab’s run in Berlin. Stay tuned!
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Image: courtesy Atelier Bow-Wow