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This Independence Day weekend, thousands of area residents will flee the land of marble mausoleums for Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean beaches. But if spending hours in traffic just to smell the salty air doesn’t appeal to you, just hop on the Red Line and visit “The BEACH,” the National Building Museum’s latest immersive summer installation, designed by Brooklyn-based art and architecture collaborative Snarkitecture.
The museum’s Great Hall is currently filled with nearly one million translucent plastic balls. They’re piled so high, it’s possible to bury yourself beneath them. White artificial turf mimics the look and feel of sand and a couple dozen beach chairs and umbrellas are set up along the “shore,” where visitors can sit back and avoid being pelted with flying plastic. A mirror at the end of the ball pit makes it look like this sea goes on (almost) forever.
After the success of Bjarke Ingels‘ “BIG Maze” last year, NBM executive director Chase W. Rynd and his team decided to present more immersive, fun experiences that teach visitors about design and architecture. That’s when the idea for “The BEACH” came about: NBM asked Ingels to identify firms that would be up for the challenge. Ingels pointed them to Snarkitecture and plans for a 10,000 square foot indoor ocean scene were quickly hatched.
“The BEACH” is based on dichotomies (old and new, light and dark, creativity and utility) and while the use of different materials challenges the thinking of some visitors, the end result is meant to be as entertaining as a trip to a conventional beach.
One thing that the artificial beach has on Ocean City’s boardwalk: better snacks. The Building Museum teamed up with food incubator Union Kitchen to provide a gourmet selection of food and drinks. Instead of downing French fries with a side of sand, guests can try stuffed dates from Julie’s Datery and sip Capital Kombucha and Stumptown cold brew coffee at the designated snack bar.
“The BEACH” opens to the public on July 4 and remains open until Labor Day. Just remember to leave your swimsuit at home—plastic isn’t as kind to bare skin as water.
See more photos of D.C.’s urban oasis after the jump.
The exhibit runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 7 at 401 F Street NW. $5–$16. nbm.org. (202) 272-2448.