Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
It's more like a fancy, adult ball pit.
"The Beach" will comprise nearly 1 million plastic translucent balls inside an enclosure, making for the most sophisticated Chuck E. Cheese–style ball pit ever constructed. A followup to last year's summer blockbuster exhibit—a labyrinth designed by Bjarke Ingels Group—the beach opens on July 4.
Snarkitecture will design the enclosure that distinguishes the ocean from the shore, as it were:
The BEACH will be contained within an enclosure and built out of construction materials such as scaffolding, wooden panels, and perforated mesh, all clad in stark white, consistent with Snarkitecture's aesthetic. Monochromatic beach chairs and umbrellas will sprinkle the 50-foot wide “shoreline,” and the “ocean” will culminate in a mirrored wall that creates a seemingly infinite reflected expanse. Visitors are welcome to “swim” in the ocean, or can spend an afternoon at the “shore’s” edge reading a good book, play beach-related activities such as paddleball, grab a refreshing drink at the snack bar, or dangle their feet in the ocean off the pier.
Like a small-scale adaptation of the Young Architects Program at MoMA PS1 and its fun-and-sun architecture "Warm Up" parties, the Beach is designed to draw people back to the museum over the course of the season. It's a way of filling up the atrium, a space whose cavernousness has otherwise proven awkward for museum programming (though Bjarke Ingels Group used the atrium to good effect for "Hot to Cold").
No doubt, Snarkitecture's Beach will be a hit with young people, and especially families, just like last summer's labyrinth. And architecture exhibitions don't necessarily fall in the same escalating category of spectacles seen at art museums. Architecture exhibits usually mean building something new.
It's not possible to judge this beach yet. Still, my worry stands: Is there never a way to engage with the work of a trendy, aspiring design firm like Snarkitecture that doesn't also trade on that firm's trendiness to draw visitors?