American Marketer


BMW encourages sustainability discussion with worldwide press

August 4, 2011

BMW Guggenheim Lab inauguration


NEW YORK – German automaker BMW inaugurated its sustainability efforts in New York Aug. 2 with an exclusive preview of the BMW Guggenheim Lab to worldwide press.

BMW Guggenheim Lab is an effort in partnership with New York’s Guggenheim Museum that raises environmental awareness and sustainability in urban settings. Press from New York, Korea, China and Germany was invited to exclusively view the site one day before it was open to the public.

“I strongly believe that the way companies are being perceived today is different from how people have looked at them only five years ago,” said Thomas Girst, head of cultural engagement for BMW Group, Munich, Germany.

“What they are doing within the society that they operate in and what they give back to society and how they are seen as good corporate citizens all play a major role in how a company and brand in particular are being looked at," he said. “That is why BMW has been active in the cultural sector for over 40 years with hundreds of projects.

“The lab far exceeds the term 'culture' because from science to philosophy to psychology to engineering to architecture, it has all these different voices that will be viewed within the lab.

“Whenever it gets involved it is being done for the reputation of the company and how it is being viewed as a good corporate citizen. This is essential for attracting potential customers and for the society as a whole.”

Blocking the competition

The event was held at the BMW Guggenheim Lab on East Houston and Second Avenue in New York’s East Village district (see story).

Members of the press enjoyed a light breakfast and a welcoming address from executives from BMW; the Guggenheim Museum; Atelier Bow-Wow, the company that led the building of the structure; and New York City officials.

The attendees were then split into two groups and were led through an architectural tour and an urbanology game.

The architectural tour was led by Momoyo Kaijima of Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow.

Ms. Kaijima explained that the structure is built of carbon fiber and is designed as a “traveling toolbox,” as it will be packed up and transported to nine different cities over the course of six years.

The lower half of the structure will be open at most times, where the game section as well as the lectures, movies and workshops will be held.

The section is wrapped in a semi-transparent and waterproof mesh.

The second part of the morning allowed members of the press to become some of the first people to play a game designed to increase social and environmental awareness.

A large checkerboard-esque mat lay below five rolling pillars, each depicting urban affordability, livability, sustainability, transportation and wealth.

Participants are asked challenging questions that pertain to urban life, and depending on the majority of the votes taken, individuals can roll their respective pillars back and forth across the board.


Participants in the sustainability game

At the end of the game, a computer calculated which city the participants’ answers most resemble in terms of the five categories.

Sustaining a reputation

Many luxury automakers are taking an active role in raising awareness about sustainability.

For instance, Audi of America attempted to stir discussions about urban mobility and sustainability for the future by assisting in building a scale-model of New York in 2030 that was displayed during the Festival of New Ideas May 7-9 (see story).

Additionally, automakers find it advantageous to invite press members to exclusive previews before they reveal a new product or initiative.

For example, Mercedes-Benz inaugurated its new flagship Autohaus in Midtown Manhattan and new concept car with a private event before New York Auto Week in April (see story).

“It was important to hold the opening event to prove to the world that the BMW Guggenheim Lab is open,” Mr. Girst said.

“The most crucial thing would be to show that the lab is not seen as a UFO that lands somewhere and then leaves again,” he said. “It needs to be seen as a beehive of activity where different organizations, institutions and the immediate neighborhoods are a part of the lab.

“And it was important to get it out there now that the structure was standing and park was looking great when half a year ago it was just a vacant lot.”

Final Take

Rachel Lamb, associate reporter on Luxury Daily

Here are some pictures from the event: