Temporary Guggenheim Outpost Opens on Lower East Side

08/03/2011 11:25 AM |

The main entrance to the new BMW Guggenheim Lab on Houston Street near Second Avenue.
  • The main entrance to the new BMW Guggenheim Lab on Houston Street near Second Avenue.

Today the Guggenheim opens its latest outpost, a temporary pavilion erected on a lot that’s sat vacant for 75 years at the corner of Houston Street and Second Avenue, wedged between a community garden and East Second Street. The BMW Guggenheim Lab will remain open to the public through October 16, when it will be dismantled and moved to Berlin, and then on to Mumbai next year.

At yesterday’s media preview the structure’s designer, architect Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow, likened it to a “toolbox in the sky.” That’s a very fitting analogy, not only for the manner in which the Lab works—with various tools being lowered from its suspended rigging to meet the programming needs of the visitors below—but also because it looks something like a giant box floating atop a public square. But, happily, its box-like form isn’t boxy, thanks to a lightweight carbon fiber skeleton, and translucent black mesh wrapping the flutters in the wind (and a second layer of white fabric that will allegedly keep all the expensive equipment underneath dry).

The Houston Street side of the pavilion features raised seating and room for lots of chairs to accommodate the crowds attending free lectures, workshops and screenings, a full schedule of which is available here. At the 2nd Street end, the giant interactive board game Urbanalogy by ZUS (available online soon) makes visitors answer difficult questions with either a yes or a no (eg. “A security guard at a museum insists on calling a transgender woman ‘Mister'; do you fire the security guard?”) and shows the effect that their decisions have on a hypothetical city according to five criteria: education, housing, health care, infrastructure, and mobility. During the preview, heated debate arose over urban policy with regard to the homeless and how much incentive cities should give to companies thinking about relocating.

Back on the Houston Street side, Bushwick’s own Roberta’s will be selling food and drinks for the duration of the lab (no pizzas though!). When the pavilion ships off to Berlin in the fall, the renovated park (dubbed, humbly, First Park) will be turned over to the local community.