Alternately extraterrestrial and of this earth, The Acid Ball symbolizes human ingenuity. What was once a storage tank for toxic waste from a nearby industrial paper mill has been transformed into a public art installation concept—a convening landmark where visitors can forge a deeper connection to the skies and waters we all share.
Located at a terminal axis point between main streets in Bellingham and a new dock proposed for the waterfront, The Acid Ball becomes an iconic marker—a symbol of transition between the water and land, between past and present, between this world and the larger cosmic order.
Led by design principal Alan Maskin, Olson Kundig proposed that The Acid Ball be transformed into a welcoming beacon for the city of Bellingham, WA, as part of its newly revitalized Whatcom Waterfront Park. Taking as its source object a defunct, 30-foot-diameter elevated steel globe from the 1930s, The Acid Ball transforms an industrial artifact into an interactive art environment.
Maskin’s design proposes slicing off the lower portion of the ball and relocating it directly below, repurposing the spherical section as a viewing platform for the interior. What was once a closed sphere of toxic containment has been cracked open and remediated, exposing an interior world to be surveyed from below as visitors recline and linger. A series of 150 holes drilled into the upper dome map out the stars as they appeared the night the paper factory closed: the winter solstice of 2007. On clear nights, viewers can compare this “frozen” constellation inside with the constantly moving night sky above – a moment of celestial connection between then and now where the passage of time becomes visible. Illuminated with a red interior light, at night The Acid Ball stands as a glowing futuristic icon: a toxic emblem transformed into a token of hope.
This highly-visible beacon and interactive attraction for the Waterfront District acts as a symbol of the transition between the historic and new uses of the site.
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