In 2015, a call for art proposals was made. A brief detailed task was proposed to repurpose and transform the “Acid Ball” into a public art piece that would become the main focal point of a new park situated at its former site.
“Acid Ball” is an industrial 30-foot diameter steel sphere artifact extracted from a former Georgia Pacific factory pulp and paper mill in Bellingham Washington. It bears its name due to its use as a relief system to draw liquid and gas from adjacent digester tanks to maintain a constant pressure while wood chips were being cooked in acid at high temperatures and pressures.
At its simplest, Acid Ball is a poignant artwork that celebrates the ball’s inherent form and connects to Bellingham’s mighty industrial past. The concept sought to authentically represent the industrial character of the artifact by maintaining its integrity of the existing shape and form. A carefully calibrated approach was taken in order to pay homage to the industrial object’s historical past, a MACRO move at an urban scale was taken as well as one MICRO move at a granular scale.
An important aspect to the proposal was the relationship of the Acid Ball to the overall park plan. Thus, a MACRO move at the urban scale was made. By repositioning the ball to the water’s edge, it instantly becomes a beacon visible from land and water. Positioned in line with the existing pedestrian corridors, the Acid Ball draws the public to the waterfront by visual connecting to the existing Downton trails and to the maritime heritage park.
An equally calculated move was made at the MICRO scale, continuously aiming to pay homage to the Acid Ball’s historical industrial past. An effort was made to preserve the steel ball’s natural patina, requiring a durable, industrial coating. Thus, the ball was coated with high index reflective glass traffic coating. A coating both durable, low maintenance and weather-resistant yet its most striking quality is its relationship to light. The glass beads narrated a different story using the Acid Ball as a blank canvas based upon the light source it interacted with. The coating alone transforms the Acid Ball into a beacon of the waterfront.