Altered States: The Kitchen Island, Reimagined

“Can I touch it?” “Is it real?” The crew setting up for IDS Vancouver kept asking about the ice ball on display at the Caesarstone booth—and the show hadn’t even officially opened yet.

The frozen sphere in question is part of Altered States, an installation presented in collaboration with New York-based design practice Snarkitecture. Since 2013, Caesarstone has enlisted the help of designers, including Philippe Malouin, Tom Dixon, and Jaime Hayon, to create artistic reinterpretations of their quartz surfaces.

“We were excited to take this material that I think most people associate with the sometimes less glamorous world of kitchen countertops, and from an art, design, and experiential standpoint, do something really interesting with it,” said Snarkitecture co-founder and partner Alex Mustonen at IDS Vancouver last week.

This year, Snarkitecture reimagined the kitchen island by assembling layers of quartz into three topographical sculptures that showcase different states of water. From Steam Island spouts a gentle stream of vapour, Water Island has the liquid trickling into its carved-out centre, and propped up in the middle of Ice Island is the famous frozen sphere, measuring roughly the size of a beach ball.

“We’re not just thinking of Caesarstone as a surface anymore. It’s actually a volume, and you really want to go up, touch it, and engage with it,” said Snarkitecture partner Ben Porto, also at IDS Vancouver. “There’s so much more depth to it.”


Alex Mustonen and Ben Porto of Snarkitecture at IDS Vancouver with Ice Island.


The installation made its debut earlier this year in January at IDS Toronto, and in April, travelled to Milan Design Week. In Milan, it was part of a large-scale exhibition that saw the addition of 45 pedestals made from metal mesh and topped with a round of Caesarstone in Airy Concrete, Cloudburst Concrete, and Rugged Concrete—all shades from the new Metropolitan collection. The idea was to encourage an interactive, amphitheatre environment where people could sit, gather, talk, and view Altered States. A portion of these pedestals were also on display at IDS Vancouver.

Altered States fits in well with the diverse portfolio of Snarkitecture, led by Mustonen, Porto, as well as partner and co-founder Daniel Arsham. Their breadth of work encompasses, to name a few projects, a pop-up COS store in Los Angeles, a topsy-turvy bench that appears to be sinking into the ground, and an interactive “beach” installation that had people diving into a faux ocean of recyclable plastic balls. Though varied, each creative pursuit reflects the studio’s mission of blending art and architecture in order to make people rethink everyday objects and situations. This is all the more apparent when looking at the root of the studio’s name—rather than alluding to a snide attitude, Snarkitecture draws its inspiration from the Lewis Carrol poem, The Hunting of the Snark.

“We were interested in Carroll’s work and specifically that poem as a metaphor for the practice,” said Mustonen. “The way [Carroll] was playing with language, creating new meaning out of old, is something that we often think about if we’re looking at creating an object, or an installation, or an architectural space.”

With Altered States, Snarkitecture certainly accomplishes the goal of reframing the kitchen island as not merely a space for conversation, but the subject of the conversation itself. (And yes, you can touch the ice ball.)


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