Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Beach comes to Museum

‘The Beach’ at the National Building Museum. Source: Hyperallergic.

Margaret Carrigan, Finding Refuge at a Ball-Pit Beach Inside a Museum, Hyperallergic, 1 September 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — If that video of pro surfer Mick Fanning’s near shark attack kept you out of the water this summer, you can still get some fin-free beach time in before Labor Day at the National Building Museum. Snarkitecture’s ball pit The BEACH has been this vacation season’s top destination in DC, drawing so many visitors that that the museum had to suspend online ticket sales in its final weeks.

Snarkitecture is a Brooklyn design firm established by Daniel Ashram and Alex Mustonen. They’re known for creating playful and sometimes slightly subversive large-scale works, and The BEACH is no exception: a sea of 750,000 white plastic balls lap at a white Astroturf shore that’s dotted with white canvas sunbathing chairs and white umbrellas. What it lacks in color, it makes up for in munchies — the museum topped off the beach experience with a Union Kitchen snack stand where you can buy treats like organic ice cream sandwiches for the kiddos and locally sourced artisan cheese boards for the grown-ups.

Thanks to its accessibility, novelty, and questionable sanitation, Snarkitecture’s beach creates a sense of physical escape in the same way a trip to the Jersey Shore does. But it also offers psychological escapism via nostalgia, since most of us haven’t been in a ball pit since our last trip to Chuck-E-Cheese. Judging by the attendance numbers, which the museum recently reported as nearly three times last summer’s visitor count, it seems nearly everyone is eager to relive their seventh birthday party.

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