Sydney Festival 2017

The sound of human movement and a sense of joy echoes in the background as we approach the monochrome installation of New York-based architecture and design firm Snarkitecture. The sound soon becomes visible with both adults and children playing and interacting, with roars of laughter emerging from the white-filled space.

They are in and amongst The Beach, in an unlikely setting deep inside The Cutaway, at Barangaroo in Sydney, in a super-sized concrete void under 12,000 cubic metres of sandstone rock, grass and matured trees. The interactive art installation recreates an artificial beach, reimagining tangible materials and cross-cultural elements for an immersive experience. Composed of 1 million recyclable, anti-microbial plastic balls in a confined setting, The Beach challenges perceptions of existing experiences reflecting natural and manmade materials.

First held in the historic National Building Museum in Washington DC in 2015, and next travelling to Tampa, Florida, The Beach arrives in Sydney, Australia as part of the Sydney Festival 2017 (7-29 January)

The Beach is where the physical experience of the visitor becomes an art experience in itself.
Photographer Mitch Lui captured the space, and spoke with Snarkitecture Director Alex Mustonen on how the concept all started.




Alex explains, “Part of the idea of The Beach is taking a universal familiar experience of the beach and bringing it indoors and producing a monochromatic environment. The materials used are the key material of the experience in The Beach. We had been doing a lot of projects that used spheres or balls, which usually referenced ideas about games or sport. There’s something that’s inherently playful about the shape of the ball. There’s rules, but there’s also a sense of unpredictability.

We then focussed on the idea of all-white balls. What’s important here is that it’s not just one or a few, it’s a million. The focus became about using the material on this scale that was unprecedented. Something that we haven’t seen before.”



On the debate of their use of plastic as an unsustainable material, all elements of recyclability have been considered to minimise the affect on the environment while executing an experiential art concept.

“They are recyclable, and with a strong intention to all be reused or to after have the ability to be turned into raw material. These are actually the balls from the Florida installation. We shipped them out on shipping containers months ago, to ensure the slow shipping reached here on time.  Sorted out, packaged and shipped here. Cleaned and tested, with a strong emphasis on hygiene. The balls are coated with an anti-microbial surface to maintain safety during the whole duration of the installation. It’s pretty interesting, as they did a test on the balls before they arrived here, and they tested them against a doorknob, mobile phone, and even everyday air. To compare the gem level on the balls, the balls outperformed them all, including the normal everyday air! So we are safe to say they are pretty clean.”

Even in the landscape of Australia where beaches are aplenty, it is a completely different experience at Snarkitecture’s own ‘Beach’. With visitors coming in with their own snorkels, rash vests, and pool inflatables reflecting a new interactive spirit from all ages.





Natural lighting fills the space, however restricted to uncompromising daylight hours to a surprisingly new perspective. Alex adds, “It’s also actually really nice being in here later on in the day, or in on a dark day, as there is a theatrical presence to the installation. As the rest of the venue gets very dark it brings an almost stage-like lighting.”

Snarkitecture The Beach at Sydney Festival 2017.