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Installation design open competition
Washington, D.C.


RE-BALL! A competition by Dupont Underground
Charleen Chae + Maggie Graham

RE-BALL! was a competition held to re-purpose the plastic balls used in laser year’s ‘The Beach’ installation by Snarkitecture at the National Building Museum. The Underground is an infrequently used tunnel beneath the Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. that was previously a streetcar station. The challenge was to bring art, culture, and public attention to the space by using the plastic balls as part of a creative and sensory experience.


The intent of PENDULUS is to create a labryinth-like experience where visitors can immerse themselves and engage freely with the installation. Suspended by a grid of PVC pipes above, netted sacks sway gently as visitors move between them. Within each sack are LED-lit balls that illuminate their surroundings, providing glowing, firefly-like points of light that are scattered throughout the tunnel. Though lightweight, the large quantities of balls cause the sacks to expand into a teardrop -shaped form, which vary in diameter as well as height so as to create a gradient of presence within the space and to allow for glimpses of visibility between people. With over 600 sacks occupying the tunnel, visitors must nudge their way in between them to make their way through the tunnel. As they do so, their movements cause a rippling effect through their vicinity as they nudge adjacent sacks and those in turn, push those around them. Hanging as low as 2ft above the ground and starting as high as 7 ft, the sack density allows for only occasional glimpses of feet and upper bodies of other partakers. The presence of other people can be seen by the oscillating, pendulum-like movements of nearby sacks.  

The scale of the installation leaves visitors no choice but to enter the thicket, guaranteeing that the design is experienced, and not simply viewed. The experience of traveling through these suspended forms is intended to encourage a multitude of emotional and sensual experiences including surprise, intrigue and joy. In small clearings scattered throughout, netted therapy swings hang from the ceiling, giving the opportunity to climb in and become a part of the gentle swaying movements that are occurring around them. 

Fabrication would consist of lightweight materials including PVC pipe, netting fabric, polypropylene cord, and the provided balls. The structure provides an advantage in both the fabrication and installation processes, as it can be prepared off-site and then easily assembled with minor hardware. The density of the installation and textured nature of the net material fills the linear void of the tunnel with the illusion of a weighted mass, challenging the visitor to enter with swimming-like motions. The entire installation floats in the center of the space, touching neither the floor or the walls, and is terminated by acrylic mirrored surfaces, suggesting that the grid of sacks continues on, multiplying the glow of the lights created by the embedded LEDs. Simple and minimal attachments are used to secure the installation to the ceiling.

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