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Designer Asif Khan
Swarovski Crystal Palace
At Design Miami/

Katy Donoghue

6 December 2012

Each year at Design Miami/, Swarovski presents Swarovski Crystal Palace, a project where the brand commissions a designer to make an installation using Swarovski crystals. The chosen design for 2012 is Asif Khan. And what he has come up with, entitled “Parhelia,” is quite ambitious. It’s a structure that recreates ice halos, previously only a naturally occurring phenomenon. We spoke with Khan about how he dreamed up, “Parhelia.”

KATY DONOGHUE: How did you get to the idea of creating a manmade ice halo, something that otherwise only occurs naturally?

(C) Claudia Hinz

ASIF KHAN: I simply wondered what it would be like to capture something immense and condense it to the size of a room. In some way I’ve always had a curiosity about “what is natural”.

KD: How did you then go about physically creating it?

Sunroof of Parhelia. Photo by Jessie Askinazi.

AK: At first we borrowed a chest freezer to see what effect suspended ice crystals had on light refraction. It was a lot of fun and beautiful photos, but no halos.We then went to University of Manchester Climate Studies laboratory. They have Europe’s largest ice cloud chamber where at -30 degrees centigrade we finally made the world’s first man-made indoor ice halo. This was, in a way, the beginning of the design process. I wanted to understand how we could harness those light effects using Swarovski crystal. I wondered if we could fuse architecture and crystal to allow people to experience that light.

KD: Did you have to find the right crystal shape or pattern for the pavilion in order to create the ice halo?

Photo by Jessie Askinazi from inside Parhelia.

AK: We had to do a lot of tests, but it’s been a very satisfying process.

KD: The ice halo can be seen with direct sunlight, not just the lighting of the pavilion. What times of day will be best to visit it?

Photo by Jessie Askinazi

AK: The light conditions will change throughout the day. I am really excited about seeing it in the famous Miami sun.

KD: You’ve said that this project, and other projects you’ve worked on are prototypes, like a laboratory for future projects. What will you bring back to your studio and practice from creating Parhelia?

Asif Khan’s Parhelia for Swarovski Crystal Palace. Photo by Jessie Askinazi.

AK: I think of this piece as a fragment of a larger piece of architecture. Keep your eyes peeled, we’ve some very interesting projects ahead!

KD: Your work exists on the boundaries of architecture, art, and design. Why do you think you have this preoccupation of exploring natural beauty in architecture?

(c) Asif Khan studio

AK: Rather than thinking of Architecture as sculpture or delineator of space, I see Architecture as a medium that is able to bring you closer to things – such as nature. I create projects, which, rather than being reactionary, connect with people in a different way – at least different for architecture.

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