Inside the Ice House: Asif Khan Takes Us on a Tour of His Crystal Palace

Amid the heat, the swarm of collectors, and frenzied pursuit of the Art World’s most raucous parties throughout the duration of Art Basel, there’s one place where wearied fairgoers can seek refuge.

In Greek, parhelia is a word that means “beside the sun.” In practice, it refers to a mystical atmosphere effect in colder climates: Northern skies are occasionally crowned with a sparkling halo, the stunning result of millions of microscopic crystals refracting the sun’s rays. With a very different type of crystal and a very different type of climate, young London-based designer Asif Khan (one of the Guardian’s 2012 “Ones to Watch,” as well as a 2011 Design Miami/ “Designer of the Future”) installed his own “Parhelia” inside the Design Miami/ tent— a wintry structure seemingly so out of place this close to the equator.

With Swarovski as his collaborator, Khan built the four walls and gabled roof of one very minimal, jewel-studded home that reinterprets this natural occurrence in a more relatable, familiar form. As this crystal house sits elevated on stilts, visitors enter through the non-existant floor, and inside the confines of this wondrous refuge, there’s an immediate calming effect as the outside world is lost through its walls. The resulting halos are even more profound at nighttime, when the singular light source is one very small LED bulb taking on the role of the sun. Wherever the viewer’s gaze goes, the halo follows.

While there is no shortage of sunshine in Miami, Khan built this installation as homage to our closest star. “The sun is millions of miles away, but we have a very intimate relationship with it,” Khan tells us. The moment of Zen “Parhelia” provides, however pleasant, is fleeting: standing inside the parameters of this crystalline refuge with Khan, partygoers at the vernissage begin to pop upwards all around us, glasses of champagne in hand. And just like that, the Art Basel madness we were hiding from has found us.

— Janelle Zara

A skylight in the house and in the surrounding tent let in the Miami sun.