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Mumbai: Mumbai-based urban transport designer Trupti Vaitla is creating a public interactive competition to see if she can get people to view traffic junctions differently.

“I am currently working on an open space in M ward, Mumbai—Lotus Nagar, in which 200,000 people share 1,300 sq meters of open space—a per capita ratio of almost zero; just to give you an idea of the kind of issues this city faces," she says.

Vaitla, who also works with the Rachana Sansad’s Urban Design Cell (RSUDC) and the Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN), is one of the four-team members of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile think tank and interactive public laboratory on urban innovation that will travel to nine cities in six years, and which opens in Mumbai on 9 December.

A large L-shaped bamboo pandal, built to resemble a modern version of a traditional wedding mandapa, will soon be erected by Tokyo-based architects Atelier Bow-Wow, a firm noted for its exploration of ad hoc architecture and theories of micro urban spaces, at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, which is hosting the event as collaborators of the lab.

The lab will host interactive installations and sessions exploring the relationship of the city to both the individual and the community, exploring the possible conflict between the two and their resolution. It will be on until 20 January 2013. Mobile versions of the mandapa will link the satellite installations, to be scattered across the city, to the main lab site. Exact sites are not yet finalized.

Tasneem Mehta, director of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, says: “It is the first project of its kind in the city and we are delighted to collaborate with the BMW Guggenheim Lab. It’s about interpreting the city; finding a creative platform with which to interpret sociological meanings. It’s something that should happen far more often in our city, and maybe this is a good place to start."

The lab, itself an organic being that adapts to the city that hosts it, will feature workshops, cultural programmes, film screenings, erect interactive installations that draw in the public, and engage with urban planners, architects, sociologists, entertainers and chefs. All events are free. “It’s a whole lot of fun, but it comes with serious intent: to discover how members of the public would like to engage with their city and how they mean for their cities to develop and grow," Mehta says.

The Mumbai lab team includes Aisha Dasgupta, a British demographer based in Malawi, Neville Mars, a China-based Dutch architect, and Hector Zamora, a Mexican artist based in Brazil alongside Vaitla. The team of four have crafted the programme along with Guggenheim curator David van der Leer and curatorial assistant Stephanie Kwai. Lab team members are nominated by an advisory committee and international group of multi-disciplinary experts. Delhi-based transportation planner and safety expert Geetam Tiwari, was recently inducted to the advisory committee of the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

The participatory nature of the programme is city specific and aims to seek solutions to the city’s unique problems. The lab will function in two-year cycles; every two years, the theme it works towards will change. The first two years—from 2011 to 2013—the theme has been “Confronting Comfort", which will conclude with the Mumbai chapter. The Berlin chapter, which ended in July 2012, raised issues of free space, water testing, and dynamic connections. The New York chapter of the mobile project concluded in 2011 where it raised questions on transport, commuting and comfort within the city. Small-scale intervention efforts helped extend the impact of the lab beyond its fixed duration in the city.

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