Volunteers poured the first batch of "The Beach" balls into the Dupont Underground space in September 2015.
Hallie Busta Volunteers poured the first batch of "The Beach" balls into the Dupont Underground space in September 2015.

If you didn't quite get your ball pit fill last summer at Washington, D.C.'s National Building Museum, you might have another chance at channeling your inner five-year-old. But unlike Snarkitecture's sea-and-sand-inspired installation, "The Beach," this new installation promises to be a little bit darker, if only in the very literal sense: it will be underground.

To back up: For several years, the National Building Museum has commissioned an interactive installation for the museum's soaring atrium known as the Great Hall. In 2014, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) devised a life-size maze. Last year, New York firm Snarkitecture designed a white ball pit that saw more than 180,000 visitors over the course of its two-month run. New York's James Corner Field Operations is up next, but no word yet on what that firm is imagining.

Meanwhile, a little over a year ago, the organization Dupont Underground signed a 5.5-year lease for the old streetcar tunnels underneath the city's Dupont Circle, with the intent to turn the space into an arts and culture space. In August, it was announced that materials from "The Beach" would be moved to the Dupont Underground space. After "The Beach" closed in September, Dupont Underground hauled the some 650,000 plastic translucent balls across town and down into the tunnels. (My colleague Hallie Busta and I tagged along with the first batch of balls on the metro.)

“The Beach” Goes Underground

Today Dupont Underground kicks off the next phase of that partnership. The "Re-Ball!" competition, open to anyone, calls for a new installation using these balls that will occupy the 14,000 feet of the tunnel's east platform. The installation doesn't need to use all of the balls, and doesn't even need to keep them intact as balls. According to the brief: "The jury will select the winning submissions based on overall concept, spatial relationship to the site, creativity of materials use, and ease and appropriateness of construction." The project has a construction budget of $10,000.

Dupont Underground is working with the National Building Museum, the Phillips Collection, and local design think-tank Archotus on the competition. The jury includes: Julian Hunt, AIA, founder of Dupont Underground; Chase W. Rynd, executive director of the National Building Museum; Vesela Sretenović, senior curator of modern and contemporary art at the Phillips Collection; Michael Kubo, co-founding partner of Collective–LOK; Tendani Mpulubusi El, founder of Tendani Studio; and Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest, principals of Ultramoderne (counted as one vote on the jury).

Submissions are due by March 4, and the winning project will be announced on March 21. Three runners-up will also be picked. The winner will receive $3,500, and the runners-up will each receive $500. The installation is scheduled to open on April 30 and run through June 1, with an opening party on April 29.

Dupont Underground