Thinning Ice is an immersive environment for contemplation and conversation about the world's changing climate. In collaboration with Swarovski and award-winning filmmaker and photographer James Balog, Studio Gang envisioned the Design Miami installation as a lens, deploying the seductive, optical properties of Swarovski crystal and Balog’s sublime yet sobering images of glacial melt to focus visitors’ attention on the urgent need for environmental action.
Sensitive to shifts in temperature, wind, and evaporation, ice is the most temporary of crystals. Upon melting, ice loses its polycrystalline structure, yet it also assumes surprising, breathtaking formations. In documenting the vestiges of the world’s melting ice, Balog captures these otherworldly forms—from the intricate patterns of polar ice sheets perforated with meltwater thaw holes to the vast crevasses in receding glaciers. Despite their ethereal beauty, however, Balog’s images underscore a discomforting reality.
Unlike mined materials, which are extracted from the earth at considerable environmental and human cost, Swarovski crystal is sustainably engineered. Its opulent materiality yet comparatively low environmental footprint evokes the kind of paradigm shifts that are required of many industries worldwide in order to address the human-made phenomenon underpinning Balog’s work.
Thinning Ice brings these fleeting forms found in the alpine and polar regions to subtropical Miami—one of many waterfront cities susceptible to extreme weather events. The installation’s glacial structures establish a central setting for dialogue on this critical issue. Embedded with a diverse selection of Swarovski crystal, from unprocessed fragments and shards to finely finished pieces, the structures’ voids echo the stunning and disturbing formations of melting ice. Reproduced in panoramic scale, Balog’s photographs define an intimate space despite the gravity of their subject matter. Together, the installation's captivating forms and imagery invite viewers to reflect on glacial melt and discuss the consequences of—and solutions to—the global climate crisis.