Part urban think tank, part community center and part public gathering space, the BMW Guggenheim Lab was conceived to inspire public discourse in cities around the world and through Lab’s website and online social communities.
The Lab structure itself was designed by Japanese architects Atelier Bow Wow, and recently ended a 10-week stay in lower Manhattan where it housed a series of free public lectures, presentations and events.
The structure is lightweight and compact, with a framework skeleton built of carbon fiber. The mobile BMW Guggenheim Lab structure is described as a “traveling toolbox” by its creators, and will reopen in Berlin in May.
“We thought about how we could make the structure—which kind of materials would be appropriate for this program. Then we started thinking about carbon fiber, which is very light and strong. It’s also very common in new types of cars, but in architecture it is not utilized as much. We thought if the framework was made of carbon fiber, the space would be very light and also inviting for people,” says Atelier Bow Wow principal Yoshiharu Tsukamoto.
The structure’s lower half is a modernized version of the Mediterranean loggia, an open space that can easily be configured to accommodate the Lab’s various programs. The upper part of the structure houses a flexible rigging system and is wrapped in a semitransparent mesh. Through this external skin, visitors are able to catch glimpses of the extensive apparatus of “tools” that may be lowered or raised from the canopy according to the Lab’s programming needs, transforming the ground space into a formal lecture setting, a stage for a celebratory gathering or a workshop with tables for hands-on experiments.
“The inside mesh is white and outside is black, and the appearance changes with the behavior of the wind and the behavior of the light.
The idea was [to create] a temporary theater in the city. When you want to change, you can pull elements down and change the space. When people walk by it can look one way, and when they pass by again two hours later it can look completely different,” Tsukamoto says.
A series of smaller wooden shelters near to the main structure provide space for restrooms and a cafe. While the main structure is more futuristic in its materials and highly urban in its programmatic approach, the design of the restrooms and cafe references timeless timber construction that has been used in many settings, both rural and urban.
“The building itself is minimal, but I think it promotes behavior,” Tsukamoto says.