Berlin Lab

Summer with the Lab

The Water Bench at Cross Maidan Park, Mumbai

The Water Bench at Cross Maidan Park, Mumbai. Photo: MARS Architects

First Street Green

The Urban Forest installation at First Street Green. Photo: courtesy SUPERFRONT.

Dynamic Connections bike map

The Dynamic Connections bike map. Screen shot: Christine McLaren

While the curatorial team is busy getting ready for the Lab’s exhibition, which will open this fall at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Lab itself continues to be busy, in its own way. There’s still a lot of Lab-related fun to be had around the globe this summer, so whether you’re in one of the three Lab cities of New York, Berlin, or Mumbai, or elsewhere in the world, read on!

Remember that crazy Lab site in New York? Squeezed between two buildings amidst the beautiful noise and chaos of Houston Street in the Lower East Side, the space was formerly a rat-infested and dilapidated rubble pile that the local community had long wished to transform. And they have. After three intensive neighborhood visioning sessions during the Lab’s run there in the summer of 2011, the community-based group First Street Green has collaborated with the New York Parks Department and transformed the space (now known as First Park) into an “open art park.” From May to October of each year, the park hosts an amazing variety of events and programs.

Located at 33 East First Street, Manhattan, the park is currently home to a mystical installation—Urban Forest—by architects Jieun Yang and Ji Young Kim (the installation is part of the park’s annual PUBLIC SUMMER program and is hosted by SUPERFRONT in partnership with First Street Green and NYC Parks), and will host a variety of events over the coming summer months. Among them:

Parkour in the City, with The Movement Creative
Sunday August 4, 2013 12-4pm
Come out and learn how to play in your parks and with your city.

You Are the City, with Petra Kampf 
Saturday August 10, 2013 6-8pm
Talk and workshop to graphically record the voices of the people who form and transform the urban construct by movement.

100 on 100, with Jill Sigman & Mary Suk
Sunday August 11, 2013 1-5pm
A public conversation and interactive performance about what First Park and NYC will be like in 100 years.

Public Space Potluck, with Design Trust for Public Space
Thursday August 15, 2013 6-8pm
Celebrate the public spaces of NYC over food and drinks with a talk by PUBLIC SUMMER 2013 designers Jieun Yang and Ji Young Kim.

Also, if you’ve got a creative itch and are looking to get your hands dirty, FSG is calling for ideas and volunteer support for a mural project that will cover the park’s plywood walls. The deadline for idea submission is August 16. More information and specs here.

To keep up on FSG’s fun and full calendar of events, e-mail them at to sign up for their listserv.

Summer means monsoon season for Mumbai, and while the rain pours down, one Lab project is soaking it all up—literally—with several recently installed prototypes of the Water Bench. Like many cities in subtropical climates, Mumbai struggles with issues of water scarcity once the wet season wanes and gives way to the (very) dry winter months. With the city also facing a severe lack of public space and infrastructure, the Water Bench tackles two problems in one sitting (pun intended), providing much-needed public seating and collecting rainwater that can be used during the dry season for irrigation. The Water Bench is the first prototype in a series of creative water-conservation solutions that Lab Team Member Neville Mars and his team at Mars Architects have developed in connection with the Lab in Mumbai.

Benches have already been installed in two locations in Mumbai—at Horniman Circle near the playground and Cross Maidan on the west lawn—as well as at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University in Ahmedabad, at the entrance plaza and south lawn. Go check them out, and keep your eyes peeled for more set to appear at Lotus Garden in Mankhurd and in Bandra (Mumbai) this fall, and elsewhere around the world.

Last but not least, Lab Team member Rachel Smith’s fantastic Dynamic Connections bicycle map has gone global. The crowd-sourced map that allows cyclists to input important information about any street’s bicycle friendliness (or unfriendliness) and connectivity began in Berlin during the Lab’s run there last summer. It has recently been opened to the entire world, which enables any city and its citizens to use it freely—just in time for peak cycling season. Data has started cropping up on the map everywhere from Guadalajara to Hong Kong, Brisbane, and Munich. I’ve mapped my commute, now get out there and map yours—and happy summer from the Lab!