The BMW Guggenheim Lab came and went from Manhattan’s Lower East Side without much incident but now the Berlin leg of the Atelier Bow-Wow-designed structure’s world tour is being cancelled because of what organizers are claiming are threats of violence from left-wing anarchist groups.
According to Business Week, which was the first English-language source to report on the issue:
“This decision was made as a consequence of threats to the project,” the BMW Guggenheim Lab said in a statement. Police and local authorities said there was an elevated risk, it said.
Left-wing activists used the Internet to urge protesters to “derail” the project, according to the daily Tagesspiegel newspaper. Their protest was that the project would accelerate the gentrification of Kreuzberg, leading to higher rents and new luxury residential developments, the newspaper said.
The main blog for opponents of the project, BMWlabverhindern (preventBMWlab), has extensive coverage of the issue. In one post, the site bullet points all the reasons the Lab should not be constructed in Kreuzberg. I’ve summarized the points below using Google Translate:
- The proposed BMW-Lab is a pure image-event for the BMW Group. And BMW’s marketing chief is quoted as saying:
“We are dealing here with an interested, receptive audience that we reach with traditional marketing and traditional communication channels less and less. All those who read most definitely no car magazines … The experiential branding strategy, and quite specifically with the BMW Guggenheim Lab, we want to attract those who today may have no particular affinity for the BMW brand.”
- BMW a very conservative company with a bad past. A large part of their capital comes from the exploitation of Aryanization during the Nazi era. BMW also supports many liberal-reactionary parties in Germany and they spend money to promote the idea of capitalism as the best and the only possible form of society. BMW also has questionable labor practices.
- The location of the Lab threatens to raise rents in the area displacing low income populations.
- The Lab will cause the temporary closure of some areas of the site that were otherwise open to the public.
- The Lab will be on property owned by a company that specializes in high-luxury projects and they hope to profit from the project.
A source, who asked to be anonymous, and is very familiar with Berlin and the proposed site explained the geographic politics to Hyperallergic:
Apparently the BMW Guggenheim Lab project had intitially thought to locate the lab in Prenzlauer Berg (Berlin’s Park Slope), but that location was deemed “too boring.”
Kreuzberg is the punkrock/activist/multiculti/graff neighborhood of Berlin … it has seen rents skyrocket in the last few years and there has been a lot of protests against gentrification. BMW should have stayed away from THE hotbed of activism in Berlin … they would have done well to pick a more gentrified neighborhood. The site of the proposed Lab is a big empty lot whose walls are graced by several large pieces by the street artist Blu.
The Berlin mayor has now become involved in the issue and he insists they will do what they can to ensure the Lab finds a home in Berlin.
While it’s not clear what the threatened violence from left-wing activists was, an article in the Der Tagesspiegel newspaper suggests that the project was worried about property damage since the police could not promise 24-hour security. In the past few year, according to another article in the same newspaper, there have been a few attacks on properties that attempt to gentrify areas of the city.