Alex Mustonen & Daniel Arsham, Snarkitecture, December 2015
Blending their backgrounds in art and architecture, classmates Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham started Snarkitecture in 2008 and have been appropriating public spaces ever since. With projects ranging from "fun"iture to full-size social installations, they've made cement pillows for cell -hones, carved caves into storefronts, created fabric tunnels out of 100,000 meters of white ribbon for fashion brand COS and even built a monochromatic ball pit beach using 750,000 clear recyclable balls inside Washington, D.C.'s National Building Museum. They spoke to us from Brooklyn about breaking down architectural boundaries, creating unexpected interactions and the importance of play for all ages.
How have your initial impressions of each other changed over time?
Alex (right): We met each other at Cooper Union in New York where I was studying architecture and Daniel was studying art. He was one of the few sculpture students that was sort of fascinated and obsessed with how architecture was put together.
Daniel (left): Alex had a very organized desk on the architecture floor and I had a very disorganized studio on the art floor. My impression was that he was extremely well organized and clean, and he's pretty much still like that.
How do your architecture-minded and art-minded brains balance each other out?
Daniel: I think I'm the "voice of dissent" in the studio and push ideas to places that they might not otherwise go. I often bring the team to a place that's challenging- the art background I have enables me to think about everything in that way.
Alex: Because I'm so interested in architecture and spend all my time thinking about it, I like to consider how things are put together and how to take the concepts we're developing in the studio and bring them into reality. I spend a lot of time thinking about how space and architecture affect our experiences of the everyday world. The character of architecture is incredibly important to me and shapes how I feel and look at my surroundings.
What are Snarkitecture's core values?
Alex: I think unexpectedness, reduction and simplicity are key. I love a good grid and a sense of order, but I also always enjoy pushing against that.
Daniel: And a kind of honesty and economy of materials so there's nothing superfluous.
Alex: In addition to these sorts of semi-serious things, the underlying, unspoken condition of our work is play- that there's a sort of subversion or invitation to engage with architecture and objects in a way that suggests playfulness.
Who compromises your personal and professional communities?
Alex: We often work collaboratively with people in other creative disciplines, such as fashion, art, design, and music. That's our circle of colleagues and collaborators.
Daniel: We have friends who are artists and other architects, but I don't think our work is part of any specific group or movement- our community is the community we have in the studio. I think we surround ourselves with people who are very good at things.