BMW Guggenheim Lab NYC An Urban Environment Experiment

A couple sits on the bleachers at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in NYC facing the performance space.

It's difficult to explain exactly what the BMW Guggenheim Lab is all about in a sentence or two — which is why they've posted a three-minute video on the BMW Guggenheim Lab website under the question "What is the Lab?" — but we can tell you this: we've stopped by a few times already to the pop-up urban think tank / lecture hall / public gathering space / Roberta's Cafe / screening room, and during each visit found ourselves grateful that people clear vacant space and build and organize cool new things so that we can just show up and enjoy ourselves. 


A mother carrying a baby walks by the side of the BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York City.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a touring, interactive exhibition of sorts, which will land in nine different cities around the world over the next three years. New York City is its first stop, with three structures — the Cafe; the central "traveling toolbox", or performance space; the bathrooms — taking over what was an empty, ratty lot on Houston Street and Second Avenue. A temporary installation, the BMW Guggenheim Lab will be there until October 16. The theme for all of the events, workshops, and performances at the BMW Guggenheim Lab will be "Confronting Comfort", touching upon, for instance, "how an urban environment can be made more responsive to people’s needs, how people can feel more at ease in urban environments, and how to find a balance between notions of modern comfort and the urgent need for environmental and social responsibility." 

People sitting in colorful chairs and standing on a lit stage with a video projected on a screen behind them at the BMC Guggenheim Lab space in New York.

It's heady stuff, to be sure, but if you take a look at the specific goings-on listed on the BMW Guggenheim Lab's calendar, it's easy to find plenty of programs of interest. In August alone, there's a talk with Gabrielle Hamilton, for example, the executive chef of next-door and much-loved Prune, as well as being the best-selling author the superb memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter. There's a screening of the very good documentary Garbage Dreams, about the Egyptian garbage pickers who have for generations been cleaning the streets of Cairo, and scouring the dumps, and recycling everything they can find, but who now find themselves losing their livelihood to more "modern" but far less effective government-contracted waste disposal companies. There's a panel discussion on the idea of "Architecture for Everyone", led by Interboro Partners, who designed the installation within MoMA PS1's courtyard this summer. And David Simon is coming to town in August as well, and he'll talk about Capturing Cities on Film, which he, of course, has done brilliantly with Baltimore and New Orleans, on the Wire and Treme, respectively. 

Close-up of a fresh garden salad at the BMW Guggenheim Lab NYC cafe.

But even if you can't attend any of the BMW Guggenheim Lab's cultural fare, we highly recommend Lab's culinary offerings. Run by the crew from Roberta's, the renowned Bushwick pizza (and other things) restaurant that emphasizes local, organic, and sustainability in everything it does, the Cafe here at the BMW Guggenheim Lab does NOT serve pizza (there's no oven), but they do make a first-rate cheeseburger–juicy and salty and deeply beefy–as well as a terrific summer salad featuring heirloom tomatoes, freshly-picked cukes and a mound of smoked ricotta cheese. Finish up with one of the Momofuku Milk Bar cookies on offer, and you have one of the best quick-bite meals in town. 

 Beautiful wooden public bathrooms nestled between the tenements at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York City.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab Details 

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is located on Houston Street, with the main entrance just east of Second Avenue, and is open Wednesday and Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., on Friday from 1:00 until 10:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. For lots more information including a complete BMW Guggenheim Lab calender, please see their website, here.  


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