Amidst a cacophony of truck brakes, street sweepers, and ambulance sirens in Manhattan’s East Village, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and BMW launched the first BMW Guggenheim Lab on Tuesday, which will open to the public on Wednesday, August 3rd. The minimalist open-air structure designed by Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow is a pop-up think tank, event space, and pavilion that will offer free movie screenings, lectures, and workshops relating to the theme of “Confronting Comfort” through October 16.

Constructed on a 25-by-100-foot site within the city-owned First Park, a pocket park between Houston and First Streets at Second Avenue, the lab comprises a 2,200-square-foot carbon structural framework clad in two layers of vinyl mesh fabric that is open on all sides. The ground is paved with simple gray bricks, and white curtains can be drawn around the structure for shade or warmth. Cages on the tented roof contain furniture and equipment, which can be lowered and lifted to accommodate various programs.

The architects also designed a café (run by the Brooklyn restaurant Roberta’s) and cabin-like bathrooms in pine. “We feel that architecture is about framing a small public moment,” said Momoyo Kaijima, one of Bow-Wow’s two principals, likening the Lab to a loggia and theater. According to David van der Leer, an assistant curator at the Guggenheim, his team requested a “non-iconic building” in its brief to Bow-Wow – quite a divergence from the Guggenheim’s usual requests for new satellites.

The Guggenheim and BMW announced their plan for the project in October 2010, with a broad and vague goal of developing solutions for cities. An inter-disciplinary Lab team of five people, including Rotterdam architecture firm ZUS, developed the programming for the Lab’s New York City stint, which will include: walking tours in the East Village, live broadcasting from East Village Radio, a lecture by Columbia University professor Saskia Sasson, a screening of “Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell,” and other similar events. They also designed a hands-on game in the back of the Lab with an online component. The Lab will be disassembled in October and rebuilt in Berlin next spring, where a different set of curators will create programming related to comfort. Mumbai will host the program in the winter of 2012-2013. In 2013 the Guggenheim will host an exhibition documenting the Lab’s findings. The entire cycle will repeat twice more, with different architect-designed structures, cities, and topics both times.

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