» BMW Guggenheim Lab » It "will address issues confronting urban life through free programs and public participation."
» Audi Urban Future Initiative » It "aims to establish a dialog on the synergy of mobility, architecture and urban development by means of a view into the future."
» VW-MoMA-MoMA PS1 Partnership » Its prime focus is an international contemporary art exhibition, but the collaboration also aims to be a platform for VW's "Think Blue" initiative, which "intends to provide food for thought for sustainable action in all areas of society."
[BMW Guggenheim Lab by Atelier Bow-Wow]
With these undertakings, car makers are taking an active role in shaping how we think about cities and how we think they might evolve. These come at a time when people look to car companies for new technologies, many incorporating alternative fuels, that will overcome the pollution and depleting energy supplies that mark the internal combustion vehicle. Sustainability and cities are the keywords used, but when I think about those terms in conjunction with automobiles nothing positive comes to mind. Cars in cities are dangerous; they pollute; they are loud; they take up a lot of space; the infrastructure for cars uses subsidies that would be better spent on public transportation and the planning of walkable neighborhoods.
[ProjektNY by Abbruzzo Bodziak, part of the Audi Urban Futures Initiative | image © Audi AG]
So what do BMW, Audi and VW hope to accomplish in these efforts? Considering that they first and foremost design and make cars, my first speculation is that they want to know people's concerns and thoughts on the future, in order to help shape the next generation of cars. After all these initiatives tap designers, urbanists, artists, and the public; they compile information. I think they also want to take an active role in the infrastructure, the urban backdrop for their vehicles. Ultimately they are being proactive about important issues, but they are participating in ways that help their long-term bottom lines; at least that's what the cynic in me thinks when I see these synchronious initiatives.