Summer in Washington DC can be a sweltering affair. Elected officials decamp the city during its muggiest months, but for those who stay behind or choose to visit, relief tends to come in one of two ways: head to one of the region's beaches or just stay indoors. For its new architecture installation at the National Building Museum, New York design firm Snarkitecture set out to combine the best of both worlds with its design for an indoor beach – of sorts, anyway.
With no sand or water in sight, 'The Beach' is more of an interpretation; as Snarkitecture senior associate Benjamin Porto puts it, 'we abstracted the architectural elements of a beach'. Sand and water? Translucent plastic balls. Shore? Astroturf. And the horizon line? A panel of mirrors.
Taking over the museum's expansive atrium space, the installation covers 930 sq m with over a million balls, allowing visitors to wade through a sea of spheres. 'The balls act like water,' explains Porto, highlighting the project's emphasis on interactivity. 'You can't just walk through it. It forces you to interact with it.' If its 4 July opening day was any indication, visitors will use the space like an actual bay, floating on the surface of the 'water', diving underneath, and lounging on the shoreline.
Those who might see more of a potential petri dish than a beach can rest easy. Manufactured by the North Carolina-based plastics company Intertech Corp, the balls are made with a new anti-microbial material.
'The Beach' is a de facto follow up to last summer's 'BIG maze' installation at the National Building Museum – a plywood labyrinth designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). It will be open until Labor Day, which this year falls on 7 September.