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.

Author Biography

Monika Grubbauer

Monika Grubbauer (PhD) is an architect and urban researcher currently based at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany. Her interests include architectural and urban theory, urban political economy, the globalization of architectural practice and urban informality. She is co-editor together with Joanna Kusiak, and a contributor to the volume Chasing Warsaw. Socio-Material Dynamics of Urban Change since 1990 (Campus, 2012).