Go under the sea with a new pop-up exhibit in New York City
It might be Instagram bait, but it’s not just Instagram bait.
Running through August 18, an eye-catching new pop-up called Ocean Cube invites visitors to travel through the watery depths—and it does so in light-filled, photo shoot-ready fashion.
A five-room exhibit located in New York’s Soho, Ocean Cube imagines a future in which humanity relocates to the bottom of a bioluminescent sea, where familiar amenities take on unusual forms. “We want to blur the line between reality and imagination as people walk through each room,” says founder and designer Kun Wu.
The immersive deep-sea tour takes visitors through a coral reef turned traffic tunnel and a shopping mall made of bubbles; in one room, fishing nets stand in for the border, and in another, a transportation hub features jellyfish and a giant whale. In a pointed nod to the environmental issues facing the earth’s oceans, the final room is full of plastic bottles, with a transparent plexiglass shark hanging from the ceiling. The shark is practically invisible, Kun says, so guests “wow” when they see it, “then quickly get the idea of such a strong contract between very visible plastic bottles and the almost invisible sea creature.”
A Rhode Island School of Design grad, Kun had long wanted to create an immersive, interactive art experience, and when fellow designers Randy Fernando and Carol Zhang joined the project in January 2019, it became clear they had a common vision. “As a team, we very quickly realized that we all wanted to design space about the beauty in nature, especially the ocean,” Kun says. “We collectively spent the first two months designing the concept and selecting the materials, colors, and atmospheres for each room. We also had to consistently refine the story we were trying to tell.”
The project was a collaborative effort from a team of architectural designers, with designers from the University at Buffalo helping with the fabrication process. In keeping with the themes of sustainability and environmental responsibility, salvaged materials were used at every opportunity, and the designers plan to sell or donate the installations when the exhibit closes. Kun hopes Ocean Cube will call attention to the planet’s environmental issues—and if social media is any indication, it's already succeeded.