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BMW Guggenheim Lab launches online interactive exploring privacy and public space
Mumbai Lab Team. Photo: Arjunan Sanjayan© 2012 Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

NEW YORK, NY.- The BMW Guggenheim Lab is expanding its exploration of privacy and public space in cities with this week’s launch of a new online interactive, Public/Private. The feature is an extension of two research projects conducted over the past seven months as part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab Mumbai. Public/Private and selected results from the earlier projects, which included a privacy study and an initiative mapping perceptions of public spaces, are now available on the Lab’s website.

Public/Private invites users to share their expectations of privacy as experienced in a variety of spaces—ranging from home to work to recreational. Each participant’s response produces a unique visual graph that can be compared to feedback generated by other participants. As people from around the world add their insights, a more complex picture of privacy in urban settings will emerge.

The research projects explore the meaning and character of privacy for residents of Mumbai, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The first project, “Your Place, My Place, or Our Public Space?: Privacy and Spaces in Mumbai,” incorporates 1,300 in-person surveys conducted prior to and during the run of the Mumbai Lab. Responses to the survey, which explored the concept of privacy and its relationship to personal and public space, were solicited from a cross-section of Mumbaikars. The project—one of the first of its kind to address the topic of privacy and public space in Asia—was conducted by the Lab in a collaboration between Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research (PUKAR), a Mumbai-based independent research collective, and Mumbai Lab Team member Aisha Dasgupta. The study found that the definition of privacy and the need for it are constantly shifting and that, faced with dense urban conditions, Mumbaikars find novel ways of using available space to meet privacy needs.

A second, complementary project, “Mapping Privacy in Public Spaces,” resulted in participants creating 250 “memory maps”—hand-drawn visual responses to images of public spaces in Mumbai. Results included feedback indicating that many participants attained privacy in large open spaces such as seafront promenades and maidans (open spaces often used for sport or large gatherings). This participatory project was initiated by the Mumbai Lab in collaboration with the Design Cell at Kamla Raheja Vidyanidji Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA).

The BMW Guggenheim Lab Mumbai, open from December 9, 2012, to January 20, 2013, was located at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, with an additional five satellite Labs throughout the city and its suburbs. The Lab presented 165 programs over 29 days and included design and research projects, surveys, tours, talks, workshops, and film screenings. Further research and findings from the Mumbai Lab continue to be collected and analyzed and will be released in the coming months.

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