10 Years of Snarkitecture
SNARKITECTURE PROJECT IS ABOUT OPENING UP THE POSSIBILITY, LEAVING THINGS AS OPEN QUESTIONS FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE COMING TO VISIT IT. THERE’S NOT NECESSARILY ANY PRESCRIBED MEANING — TO SAY IT’S ABOUT THIS OR ABOUT THAT — BUT HOPEFULLY, IT ALLOWS YOU TO WONDER.
Perched on a quartz topped column, beneath the crumbling, paint peeled dome of an 18th Century palazzo in Milan, Alex Mustonen is thinking about his legacy. Or rather, the legacy of his design firm, Snarkitecture, whose 2018 has been a banner year. They’ve celebrated their 10 year anniversary, published their first monograph with Phaidon, and have plans to mount a career spanning retrospective at Washington DC’s National Building Museum, opening this Fourth of July.
The moody Italian palace doesn’t just serve as a dramatic backdrop for ponderous self reflection. The trio, Mustonen, Daniel Arsham, and Benjamin Porto, have just installed their latest Salone del Mobile project there, a collaboration with quartz manufacturer Caesarstone, that explores water in its various states. It takes the shape of an ethereal amphitheater circling a terraced fountain of quartz. On top, planetary spheres of ice drift and creak, melting into the running water only to rise again as steam. It’s the latest in a sprawling roster of projects — 75 of which are detailed in the book — that Snarkitecture have dreamed into life during their decade-long tenure. They’ve morphed museums into massive, giggling ball pits (The Beach, ongoing), choreographed a ballet of over sized balloons during a gala at the New Museum, and filled the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York entirely with pure white styrofoam, which they then invited viewers to watch as they excavated it with chisels and icepicks
It’s often said the core genius of Snarkitecture’s projects are their simplicity. For a union that formed in the cerebral confines of New York’s Cooper Union (Mustonen, in architecture and Arsham, art, attended at the same time, while Porto joined the firm later on), their installations and interiors strike straight to the heart of what brings us the purest kinds of joy. There’s an unabashedly innocent jubilation involved in doing a cannonball into a ball pit, marvelling at pirouetting balloons, or digging an endless hole to nowhere. In conceiving their much celebrated work, Snarkitecture are like children, having been gifted with the most expensive and high-tech of toys, instead choosing to make a fort from the box. Or, in their case, the packing foam.
Cereal sat down with partner Alex Mustonen to talk about the past ten years, plans for the future, and what’s inspiring them now.