An Interview with Alex Chinneck On His Collaboration with Philip Morris' IQOS for Milan Design Week
Recently, Alex Chinneck, an artist whose impossible architectural interventions we've shared in the past, revealed his latest project created in collaboration with Philip Morris' IQOS for Milan Design Week. A Sprinkle of Night and a Spoonful of Light is sort of a follow-up to a similar creation introduced in England last year, now featuring the whole facade of the building, plus the inside section.
Known for reality-bending creations in which urban space elements and structures obtain unusual qualities, Chinneck likes to challenge the viewer's perception of what is possible. Inspired by the traditional architectural element used on the corners of the buildings in this part of Italy, this particular intervention is unzipping the front of the building and revealing a glowing light facade underneath it. This effect is further extended on the inside of the structure where part of the floor and one of the walls are also unzipped with more light coming through them.
We enjoyed seeing the images of this impressive project, so we got in touch with Chinneck's studio and talked with the man behind this project.
Sasha Bogojev: How long was this project in the works?
Alex Chinneck: We first visited Milan to discuss the collaboration with IQOS in mid-January. Fabrication began six weeks after that and work started onsite two weeks later. In total, the whole process was less than 12 weeks from concept development to completion.
How many of the actual building elements were used for it?
The 17m unzipping facade covered two buildings, giving them a new, unified identity. To be clear, we rebuilt the entire front - the original buildings were completely concealed. The facade also created an internal corridor behind it that linked the interior spaces. This enabled us to take visitors on a journey, starting outside with the fatigued aesthetic of a seemingly historic Milanese building and then revealing, through a series of openings in its walls and floors, portals to a futuristic world.
What was the most challenging part of it?
Design and fabrication were both hugely expedited in order to meet the deadline of Milan Design Week, so that was our greatest challenge. We were designing details of the installation during the day and they were being produced the same night.
Personally, what was your favorite part of it all?
The collaboration with IQOS encouraged me to explore new territory in terms of working with color, sound, and illumination, and introducing an element of interactivity to the work.
How important is it to see your work in person versus seeing the images of it?
We live in an increasingly digital age where art is often experienced on screen. While social media acts as a fantastic mechanism for widening reach and awareness, the sculpture is best experienced in person. By inviting visitors to not only walk around the work but to go inside it and to literally picture themselves in the world that we created, I wanted to encourage as many people as possible to experience it in real life. I’m pleased to say that it worked with over 215,000 people visiting the work over six days and the interior spaces reaching maximum capacity throughout the installation.
What type of materials were used for this?
The sculptures were made of a hybrid of materials. For the unzipping factory floor, we excavated and poured a complete concrete floor. For the building's facade, real weeds were planted around its edges. Wherever possible, we use the real materials involved in the narrative of the artwork. Where not, we often use tricks and materials from the theatre trade. My work cuts across disciplines, combining art, architecture, theatre, and engineering.
Any further plans on continuing the unzipped works?
We will definitely be unzipping buildings again, and other things too, hopefully all around the world.
Any information on upcoming projects or exhibitions we can mention?
Our next public artwork will be in Mumbai and is due to be completed at the end of the monsoon season. We are currently working on several exciting projects across the UK also, including a major sculpture trail for Sheffield which must be one of the most ambitious public art projects ever attempted in this country.