Snarkitecture Designs Labyrinthine Marble Run for COS

Called Loop, the New York–based designers have created a playful, quarter-mile track for thousands of white glass marbles at a Seoul gallery.

COS Snarkitecture Marble Loop
Courtesy COS/Snarkitecture

When it comes to all-things cool, New York–based design studio Snarkitecture seems to have cornered the market. Minimalists to maximalist effect, the team has a preternatural ability to transform ordinary objects––casts of Air Jordan sneakers, vinyl tubes, antimicrobial plastic balls––into the building blocks of immersive architectural environments for cultish retailers like Calvin Klein, Kith, and Public School.

Glass marbles are the latest medium––more than 100,000 of them. Tomorrow, Snarkitecture will reveal its latest collaboration with London fashion label COS in the form of a labyrinthine marble run. Called Loop, the installation centers around a monumental yet delicate, floating track network. A single white marble is fed into the maze-like system every five seconds and steadily rolls down one of four separate segments. Though the sculpture consists of over one-quarter mile of powder-coated steel tracks, as tightly wound as mattress springs, it occupies just one room.

But the marble run itself is only half the magic: Once the marbles complete the course, they disappear into a hole in the floor, and then––enigmatically––reappear in an adjacent room, gradually accumulating in pixelated snowdrifts. “It’s kind of setting the stage. It’s provoking a question,” says Snarkitecture co-founder Alex Mustonen. “We had this goal of creating a sense of wonder and reconsidering your relationship to your surroundings in that moment.”

COS Snarkitecture Marble Loop
Courtesy COS/Snarkitecture

The simplicity of the gesture belies the complexities of the actual design. “It was a lot of testing visually, but also functionally, so that the marbles roll at a continuous rate,” says Mustonen.  Then there were more practical considerations, such as the slapstick-y scenario of gallery-goers slipping on darting marbles. (“We’ll have someone there to make sure you don’t,” Mustonen assures).

The installation, on display at Seoul’s Gana Art Center through November 19, marks Snarkitecture’s third collaboration with COS (a subsidiary of the Swedish company H&M), the first in Milan in 2015, and the second in Los Angeles last year. But unlike those installations, there is no clothing or retail element in Loop; the studio was given virtually free artistic range. “We started the same way that we have on the past projects, which is just to look at what [the COS team] is looking at,” explains Mustonen. In particular, they drew on an icy blue hue featured in COS’s latest collection for the tracks, and, in general, the brand’s overall cool-and-collected aesthetic.

Loop brings to mind past Snarkitecture installations, notably Beach at the National Building Museum (2015), and Marble Run, created for the Delano Hotel during Art Basel Miami Beach in 2014. “The idea of the white sphere is something that is a recurring element in a lot of our work,” Mustonen concedes. “In this instance it’s almost if you poured water into a space, a kind of white flood.”

So how does the entire Loop circuit work, really?  “That’s the mystery,” he says.

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