On Wednesday night, the courtyard of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., was transformed into a battlefield: "Merry bands of warriors are invited to build forts from board-of-card and put their skills to the test in the Great Battle of Foam Balles."
Twenty-two teams, divided into the West and East courts, vied for top honors in the museum's second Ultimate Megafort competition. Word must have gotten out since last year's battle, since participation was up from last year's 14 teams.
Staffers from ARCHITECT and Hanley Wood were joined by D.C. residents Molly Towey and Adam Beckerman for the ten-person Team 15, which we, of course, named ARCHITECT. Our opposing team: Socrates and Scholars. Each team was given cardboard, tape, and plastic fasteners. Forts were to be judged in three categories: structure, aesthetic, and function in battle.
After fueling up on Port City Brewing Company beer and snacks from Union Kitchen, it was time to build the fort. All teams had one hour. Associate editor Deane Madsen, Assoc. AIA, had generously drawn up a section for us to consult.
Madsen's plans called for a wall spanning most of the front of the square with a slanted half-roof that the tallest member of the group, art director Robb Ogle, was supposed to hold up. Although none of the team members were architects, we quickly abandoned the latter part of our colleague's plans and began reinforcing the front wall with boxes instead of art directors. Earlier in the day, graphic designer Jessica Rubenstein had constructed an ARCHITECT flag, which we pitched on the right side of the wall. With only a short time remaining, we stuck sheets of red paper Rubenstein snagged from the office to the front façade. (Ogle later likened it to the Kasteel de Haar.)
Then it was show time. We were handed a garbage bag of small foam balls.
For five minutes, we tossed the foam balls at the opposing fort. All is fair in war, and members from both teams were soon standing in front of the forts, feet from the enemy, throwing as fast as possible. Some of the foam balls were wet, clearly soaked in something, but in the madness these could have come from another adjacent battle.
Time was called, and the ARCHITECT territory only contained a few foam balls. We defended our square valiantly, in my opinion.
As we strolled around afterwards, it was clear that our fort-building skills were far inferior to those of some of our comrades. One team constructed a bird gargoyle for the top of their structure. More than one team used colored boxes to make pennants. Another fort curiously included a headless figure dressed in animal-print pajamas.
We did not win, but we were rookies. Props to the two winning teams: the West court's Ours is Bigger Than Yours and East court's The Recyclables. We're coming for you next year.