Amazing Optical Illusion Makes This Wallpaper Look 3D

The architects of the Brooklyn-based firm Snarkitecture are obsessed with excavation. Instead of building something up, as most architects do, they like to carve things out. Even when those things are entirely two-dimensional.

For the 2017 edition of Salone del Mobile, the annual design fair and festival in Milan, Snarkitecture created Topographies, a wallpaper featuring a pattern of torn paper. Look at the pattern from afar, and it appears to pop out of the wall.

[Photo: Lauren Coleman]
The designers stacked sheets of heavyweight paper and created a hollow by tearing the sheets one by one. Once finished, the stack looked like a topographic map. They photographed details of the shorn edges and printed that on wallpaper. When installed, it creates a three-dimensional optical illusion that gives a flat surface depth. “Alluding to the aging process of layered wallpaper, the design reveals an unexpected relationship between destruction and construction,” the firm said in a release.

It’s just the firm’s latest attempt to play with positive and negative space. For the fashion designer Richard Chai, Snarkitecture’s designers made a cavernous pop-up by shaving Styrofoam with a hot-wire cutter. They further riffed on the notion for Design Miami by building a cave with inflatables for its entry pavilion. For a Storefront for Art and Architecture installation, the firm used picks, hammers, and chisels to create a veritable arctic crevasse from EPS foam. Snarkitecture even made a chocolate bar that resembles tectonic plates intersecting.

Check out the collection–designed for the Brooklyn-based wall coverings company Calico–in the slide show above.