Summer at the beach: Snarkitecture’s seasonal offering at DC’s National Building Museum

Four gigantic marble columns in National building museum in Washington DC showing beach display
Snarkitecture's latest installation – 'The Beach' – is now on show at the National Building Museum in Washington DC
(Image credit: Noah Kalina)

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 (opens in new tab), 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.

Aerial view of people playing in indoor beach display between huge marble columns in museum

The installation is an interpretation of an indoor beach, with the sand/water reconceived as translucent plastic balls, the shore as astroturf and the horizon line as a panel of mirrors

(Image credit: Noah Kalina)

White astroturf beach, white deck chairs and translucent plastic balls for sea foam

'The balls act like water,' explains Snarkitecture senior associate Benjamin Porto, highlighting the project's emphasis on interactivity. 'You can't just walk through it. It forces you to interact with it'

(Image credit: Noah Kalina)

White deck chairs and umbrellas at indoor beach display in museum

On its opening on 4 July, visitors used the space like an actual beach, floating on the surface of the 'water', diving underneath, and lounging on the shoreline

(Image credit: Noah Kalina)

Person lying half submerged in white translucent plastic balls depicting sea

The installation covers 930 sq m with over one million translucent plastic balls, allowing visitors to wade through a sea of spheres

(Image credit: Noah Kalina)

Entrance for admission to indoor beach display in front of marble pillars of national museum

True to form, 'The Beach' will be open through to the traditional end of the American summer, Labor Day – this year falling on 7 September

(Image credit: Noah Kalina)

ADDRESS

National Building Museum 
401 F St NW
Washington DC 20001
United States

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