Snarkitecture creates amphitheatrical installation for Caesarstone at Salone del Mobile
Subversion is to be expected from Snarkitecture. The New York design studio has consistently based its multi-disciplinary works – which range from furniture and product designs to art installations, experiential environments and architectural interventions – around notions of the unexpected and the uncanny. Surfaces and objects are often ruptured and excavated to create a visual language based on natural topography, while a palette of white and grey coolly emphasises form, materiality and manmade artifice. A Snarkitecture piece is an easy spot.
‘We often look to existing materials, objects and architecture, finding ways to reimagine it or create new and unexpected uses from it,’ says designer Alex Mustonen, who co-founded Snarkitecture in 2008 with artist Daniel Arsham (they met while students at the Cooper Union in New York). Architect Benjamin Porto joined as a third partner in 2014.
It’s a distinctive approach that has made the Snarkitecture team a regular fixture at Salone del Mobile in recent years, producing collaborations with brands such as COS, Valextra, Gufram and Calico Wallpaper. This year it will present an immersive pop-up installation for quartz surface company Caesarstone, whose annual commission has brought serious cultural cachet and creative calibre to a rather static product line most readily associated with kitchen countertops. Previous collaborations – with the likes of Nendo, Raw-Edges, Philippe Malouin, Tom Dixon and Jaime Hayon – have resulted in a series of wildly inventive material explorations centring on the brand’s signature engineered-stone slabs.
Asked to interpret the kitchen space for this year’s edition – which coincides with the biennial EuroCucina show at Salone del Mobile – Snarkitecture explores the notion of a kitchen island as a social hub and a context within which to explore the changing states of water, the most elemental ‘ingredient’ used in cooking. In an early preview, titled Altered States and shared in January at the International Design Show (IDS) in Toronto, the designers presented a series of sculptural vignettes that formally reference glaciers, geysers and waterfalls: a range of ‘structures that connect altered states of water to the natural world’, says Mustonen. Each topographic study suggests a scale of geologic time in miniature, evoking natural rock formations and contours that have been eroded and sculpted by the passage of water in various states – ice, liquid, steam – and which are equally put to use in cooking techniques.
‘I knew Caesarstone, as I think most people do, as a kitchen countertop material, and we were interested in thinking of using it in ways that it wasn’t meant to be used,’ says Mustonen. ‘In this case, there was an opportunity for us to take this material that people understand in a very specific, narrow context, and open it up a little bit to create a somewhat abstract, experiential environment.’ Arsham adds, half-jokingly, ‘We also just wanted to build something that would involve a giant ball of ice.’
In Milan, these topographical and elemental explorations – made with layers of Caesarstone’s engineered-quartz slabs, precision-cut into sinuous contours and stacked in a terraced mass in a display of the material’s solidity – will combine to form a single ‘island’ with various stations showcasing ice, water and steam. Offering a physical metaphor of the kitchen island as an island landscape, it will form the centrepiece of an amphitheatre-style setting, which will be surrounded by more than 250 pedestals, made using three different Caesarstone colours from its new industrial collection Metropolitan: ‘Cloudburst Concrete’, ‘Airy Concrete’ and ‘Rugged Concrete’. The monochromatic pedestals gradually rise to emulate the appearance of a natural landscape.
The installation itself will take place at the long-shuttered Palazzo dell’Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana, a former university building that will open to the public for the first time in 20 years, for the duration of Salone. ‘It’s sort of a secret space in the city, a building that you might walk by all the time without noticing what’s inside it,’ says Porto. Altered States will give visitors a rare opportunity to take in the aged grandeur of the storied, timeworn space before it’s closed down and redesigned by Piero Lissoni for the forthcoming Milan Edition Hotel.
‘Whether it’s in the context of IDS in Toronto, or Salone, we’re interested in creating an experience for people who are seeing dozens of installations or hundreds of objects a day,’ says Mustonen. ‘We wanted to create something that will ideally stand a little bit apart from that setting – something a bit meditative and reflective on the one hand, but also sort of strange and theatrical on the other.’
As originally featured in the May 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*230)
Experience Altered States at Salone del Mobile 2018. Video: courtesy of Snarkitecture
Altered States is on view at Palazzo dell’Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana from 17 – 21 April at Salone del Mobile. For more information, visit the Snarkitecture website
Palazzo dell’Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana
Corso di Porta Romana 10
‘I will be living in it’: Sofia Coppola unites with Barrie on a collection inspired by her personal style
Filmmaker Sofia Coppola has worked with Barrie creative director Augustin Dol-Maillot on a capsule collection for ‘work, leisure and travel’, utilising historic techniques of the Scottish knitwear house
By Jack Moss • Published
New Practice’s architecture draws on kindness and collaboration
New Practice co-founders Becca Thomas and Marc Cairns talk us through their Glasgow- and London-based studio’s ethos, projects and plans for the future
By Ellie Stathaki • Published
Plato in Ostrava is an art gallery on the crossroads of past and future
Plato Contemporary Art Gallery in Ostrava by KWK Promes is a modern rebirth celebrating a Czech building’s heritage
By Bartosz Haduch • Published
Faye Toogood brings new life to Matisse’s legacy
Milan Design Week 2023: tapped by Maison Matisse, the London-based designer has taken inspiration from the French master’s forms to create a collection of heirloom-worthy objects
By Sam Rogers • Published
Prada Frames 2023: Milan programme announced
Programme announced for Prada Frames 2023 at Milan Design Week, the annual symposium curated by Formafantasma at Luigi Caccia Dominioni's Teatro Filodrammatici from 17 to 19 April
By Rosa Bertoli • Last updated
Alessi Occasional Objects: Virgil Abloh’s take on cutlery
Best Cross Pollination: Alessi's cutlery by the late designer Virgil Abloh, in collaboration with his London studio Alaska Alaska, is awarded at the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023
By Rosa Bertoli • Published
Salone del Mobile 2023: highlights from Milan Design Week
In pictures: our highlights from Milan Design Week, held during the 61st Salone del Mobile 2023 (18-23 April)
By Rosa Bertoli • Last updated
USM launches blushing pink limited edition of its modular furniture
Following an installation during Milan Design Week 2022, USM launches a new pink limited edition of its Haller range
By Rosa Bertoli • Last updated
‘You don't want space; you want to fill it’: Milan exhibition
Making its debut during Milan Design Week 2022 at Marsèll Paradise, a new exhibition by Matylda Krzykowski, explores how we approach the space we live in (until 15 July 2022)
By Cristina Kiran Piotti • Last updated
Kohler and Daniel Arsham brought experiential art to Milan Design Week
Looking back on Daniel Arsham and Kohler’s Divided Layers installation, and the brand’s latest bathroom collection
By Simon Mills • Last updated
Men’s mental health takes centre stage at an art and design exhibition by Tableau
‘Confessions’, which travels to Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design following its debut at Milan Design Week 2022, features commissioned work by 14 male artists, designers and architects, reflecting on toxic masculinity, vulnerability and mental health
By TF Chan • Last updated