In its 125-year history, table tennis has remained relatively the same: two paddles, one ball, and a table fitted with a net stretched tautly across its center. Of course, the paddles have been reengineered over the years to increase spin and bounce, among other performance boosts; the ball has also changed, including various enlargements meant to slow the game down and make it more palatable for television audiences. The table, too, has witnessed its own set of modifications, but none quite like this.
Slice reimagines the ping-pong table as an aesthetic object. Designed by Brooklyn-based art and architecture studio Snarkitecture, the table seems to have split identities: the top half functions like every other table tennis surface, while the bottom half, a “topographical landscape,” harbors sculptural ambitions. And painted a sinister jet black, it’s definitely moodier than the innocuous olive-green table you grew up playing on.
But why ping-pong? Snarkitecture Co-Principal Alex Mustonen says that the idea came from the working conditions at their Greenpoint office. “We often play in the studio,” Mustonen tells Co.Design. “The studio is organized around our conference table, which is another piece of ours [the Slab Table] that doubles as a ping-pong table.” Similarly, when the net is removed, Slice becomes a conference or dining table, or even a sculptural object.
It’s not quite as arbitrary as you’d think. Slice fits comfortably in Snarkitecture’s portfolio of simple, yet head-scratching designs which all share a common theme. The objects appear to be in a state of rupture or, oppositely, in the process of being excavated.
In the case of Slice, the table’s topside and the light-hearted play it accommodates conceals a boisterous landform or swell bubbling underneath. This undulating landscape, however, becomes less imposing as you walk around it; do so, and you discover that the form isn’t, in fact, solid, but rather “sliced” up into layered fins of Richlite (a composite eco-material) and separated by gaps. The overall effect creates “an opaque density from one side and a transparent lightness from the other,” Mustonen explains. It’s the same type of visual subterfuge that Snarkitecture’s work continues to explore. What you see isn’t always what you get.