The Mandala Lab at Rubin Museum of Art in Bilbao


Javier de Paz García,

Bilbao, Spain,



Under the slogan “Where emotions can turn to wisdom”, a travelling version of the famous Mandala Lab, an initiative and installation of the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, has been set up in Bilbao’s Doña Casilda Park. The pavilion designed by EXTUDIO and ENORME Studios of Madrid was open to visitors during the first Wellbeing Summit for Social Change in the month of June.

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The Mandala Lab at Rubin Museum of Art in Bilbao
The Rubin Museum of Art, which we presented to our readers a few years ago, opened the first Mandala Lab in its New York City galleries in October 2021, an interactive installation designed to be an experiential healing space supporting connection, empathy and learning. It is easier to understand the reason for such a space if we realise that the mandala is a Buddhist teaching tool. According to Tenzin Gelek, Senior Specialist in Himalayan Arts and Culture at Rubin Museum: ”With the Mandala Lab, we’re using Buddhist wisdoms coupled with creative and interactive artworks and experiences to understand, unlock, and heal these difficult emotions within ourselves. This 'mental gym' invites us to face life with renewed wisdom and insights”. 
In the specific case of the pavilion designed by Spanish studios EXTUDIO and ENORME Studio for the first Wellbeing Summit for Social Change in Bilbao’s Doña Casilda Park, the Mandala Lab is configured on the basis of five playful experiences inviting reflection. These include sensory experiences such as videos and aromas, with the addition of a sculpture which is an invitation to collective breathing and a number of musical instruments: percussion instruments immersed in water for use in various forms of meditation. The architects’ intention is to convey the basic concepts inspiring the place through the idea of experiencing space through the senses. And so they proposed a pavilion with a round layout like that of a mandala. 
The building’s lightweight roof permits the passage of light to illuminate the entire space, both central and radial. The big openings in the walls vary in size, with different geometric shapes such as circles or triangles, providing the space with natural ventilation and permitting visual dialogue with Doña Casilda Park. The park’s original 85,200 metres have been expanded over the years and adapted in response to the requirements of urban planning, providing a green link between the Abandoibarra and Ensanche neighbourhoods. The 30,000 square metres added in 2006 include green areas and a tree-lined avenue, and it is this vicinity to nature that makes the Mandala Lab at the Rubin Museum in Bilbao such a special experience.
And in fact the project was created for the first Wellbeing Summit for Social Change. The event, which took place 1 through 3 June 2022 in Bilbao, is the first of its type to bring together global leaders in social change, government, the arts and corporations to promote the individual and collective well-being of people who work in the front lines of social change. Art was the focus of this event held in collaboration with well-known artists and artistic organisations, playing an integral role in the development of a new language of interior well-being and social change.
EXTUDIO and ENORME Studio’s Mandala Lab for The Rubin Museum of Art is a very important place, especially at this time of pandemic, climate crisis and conflict, involving visitors in five playful, stimulating experiences that make use of the power of difficult emotions and offer ways of developing people’s resilience, calm and connection with the world. All with architecture that supports this intention.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: EXTUDIO and ENORME Studio for The Rubin Museum of Art
Location: Bilbao, Spain
Year: 2022
Images: estudioballoon. Javier de Paz García.


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