Made up of 1.1 million white plastic balls, Snarkitecture’s architectural spin on the beach borrows from all of the brilliant, nostalgic elements of surf life culture in one sprawling, immersive installation.
January 10th, 2017
The city of beaches has welcomed a new sort of beach for the summer months as part of the Sydney Festival. Set up within the cavernous, cave-like Cutaway at Barangaroo is The Beach, an installation conceived and brought to life by New York multidisciplinary design studio Snarkitecture. In essence, it is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest ball pit — a teaming ocean over one million white plastic balls. More than just an oversize children’s playground however, The Beach is a finely tuned architectural experience, designed to conjure sublime summertime cues.
Crouched beneath azure white umbrellas on matching white sling beach chairs, Snarkitecture co-founder Alex Mustonen, and studio partner Benjamin Porto watch on enthusiastically as the first set of Sydney punters take a running dive bomb into their freshly filled sea of white plastic.
“One of the things that Snarkitecture has been interested in since we started is toying with a way of making architecture more accessible and more engaging to a wider audience,” says Mustonen. “For us, making the beach an architectural experience, immersive and fun, is a way to further that.”
The Brooklyn based studio’s portfolio includes retail and experiential design, with installations and projects for Calvin Klein, COS and Kith. At Salone del Mobile in 2016, Snarkitecture presented a clock concept called TRACE as part of the Lexus Design Award.
The Beach first appeared in the atrium of the National Building Museum in Washington DC in 2015. “[Washington] is a huge summer spot for families in the US to visit,” explains Porto. “Though it’s on the east coast but not near the water – so really hot, but really gross. The idea was that you could enjoy the beach at this air conditioned 68 degrees, as a flip of an otherwise familiar experience.”
Similarly in Sydney, The Beach is enclosed and shielded from the harsher Australian summertime environmental elements — scorching temperatures, sun burn, sharks and salty seawater. But Snarkitecture’s design still gives The Beach the echo and substance of the real deal.
A collection of unexpected materials draw upon nostalgia of the seaside. The ground has been laid with ash white astro turf that has a sort of course, grainy texture — precisely like sand. As visitors wade, splash and dive amongst the balls the echo is matched almost perfectly to the boom of crashing waves. This version of The Beach installation has also been modelled off Sydney’s famous coastline. Mirrors line the back perimeter as an expansive, harbour-like horizon.
Snarkitecture’s practice is built from the idea that architecture is ubiquitous, and for that reason it is all the more interesting and fun to alter our everyday experience of it. The colour palette of The Beach has been reduced to just white, transforming it an artistic and otherworldly space.
“[Snarkitecture] is found in the space between art and architecture,” adds Mustonen. “We see it as this kind of unknown territory. Projects like The Beach are an example of something which, in one person’s eyes it is a public art installation, and in another it is an architectural space.”
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