Mainstreaming Urban Interventionist Practices: the Case of the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Berlin

Monika Grubbauer


The paper examines how practices of urban intervention have entered the mainstream by discussing the case of the BMW Guggenheim Lab. Financed by the German BMW group and realised by the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, the project addresses issues of contemporary urban life in the form of a ‘mobile laboratory’ with an explicit emphasis on participatory forms of urban intervention. The Lab’s temporary residence in Berlin in 2012 encountered fierce protests from residents and activist groups.

I revisit the ensuing public debates and discuss the impact they had on the project. Drawing on in-depth interviews with people involved in the Lab the various notions of participation underlying the project are examined. It is shown that the Lab generated new and unexpected encounters and individual experiences. However, for solving actual problems the debates and experiments held at the Lab were too general, too exclusive and too short-lived to be of lasting relevance.

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