Evanescent Institutions: Capturing a Global Democratic Imaginary

Critical, Curatorial + Conceptual Practices in Architecture, Thesis

Marina Otero

Felicity Scott, advisor

In 2011, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, an institution known for its creation of an international network of landmark museums, inaugurated a new cultural institution: The BMW Guggenheim Lab.

Rather than taking the form of a museum, the Lab was, instead, a “combination of think tank, public forum and community center,” intended to bring programming out of the institutional space and to a wider audience. To this end, the BMW Guggenheim Lab was designed not only as a temporary and mobile structure, but also as a “Major New Global Initiative” stretching out over nine cities, and for the duration of six years, with three successive themes and architectural structures. It might be polemically argued that the BMW Guggenheim Lab represents the emergence of a new paradigm for cultural institutions, offering a precedent for how they could affect the cultural, social and political environment through new means of circulation, methods of financing, and an expanded concept of participation. The ambition of this thesis was, therefore, to inquire into and speculate on this paradigm shift (if any), its political implications, its territories and its imaginaries.