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At National Building Museum, Life’s a Beach

Snarkitecture co-founder Mustonen jumps into an ocean of plastic balls at the BEACH (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Snarkitecture co-founder Mustonen jumps into an ocean of plastic balls at the BEACH (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

For Hillites in need of an impromptu beach fix, the National Building Museum is happy to oblige, no swimsuits or sunblock required. The museum’s Great Hall, home to so many Hill fundraisers and galas, is hosting the BEACH , a monochromatic, indoor representation of the real thing.  

The 10,000-square-foot installation contains the familiar elements — beach chairs, umbrellas and a snack bar. But instead of sand, there’s carpet and instead of an ocean, there are about 1 million clear plastic balls. Created by Snarkitecture , an experimental architecture and design firm, the BEACH is part of a new summer tradition at the museum to create unique exhibitions that are interactive, as well as educational. Last year’s maze, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) drew in more than 50,000 visitors. It was BIG that suggested Snarkitecture to be its successor in designing this year’s installation.  

Snarkitecture came up with the idea of the BEACH after it lamented the District’s distance from the ocean. Co-founder Alex Mustonen said at a press preview of the BEACH that they wanted to create “something that is unexpected, but also something that’s memorable.”  

That involved “drawing on these forms and elements and programs that you recognize from pretty much any beach, but also blending them with the world of construction,” Mustonen said to a crowd of reporters.  

Those at the preview seemed to enjoy swimming through the ball pit (though one journalist nearly lost his sunglasses in the “ocean”) and sampling snacks from the snack bar, which is operated in partnership with Union Kitchen. Offerings include specialty drinks, ice cream and candies by Union Kitchen members Squeaky Pops, Undone Chocolate and Pop’s By Haley, among others.  

On Wednesday nights, the BEACH will be open until 9 p.m., and Union Kitchen pop-up vendors will serve special dinners and cocktails. The other museum exhibits will remain open, and there will be live music. The first late-night event will be this Wednesday with local band Shark Week , featuring Roll Call’s most famous “one-armed drummer” alumnus, Daniel Newhauser.  

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