"Yucca Crater," at High Desert Test Sites, 2011.
Located on a remote desert plane two and a half hours outside of Los Angeles, High Desert Test Sites is one of the few remaining experimental design and art happenings to fly largely under the radar of the media. HDTS was founded as counterpoint to the world of art critics and galleries, led by an array of luminaries including Lisa Anne Auerbach and Andrea Zittel. As such, the group’s installations further the project of Land Art, popularized in the 1970s, and pushes site-specificity, re-use and waste elimination as core goals.
The latest bi-annual iteration of HDTS took place on October 15th, transforming the stretch of land between California’s Joshua Tree National Park and 29 Palms, into an “anti-gallery” showcasing the work of experienced and emerging designers. The highlights from this year’s HDTS follow below, from Yucca Crater, a rock climbing playground/swimming pool built by Ball-Nogues Studio, to Claude Collins Stracensky’s Solar Distiller/Fountains. .
"Yucca Crater's" inner bowl, where climbing wall holds lead down to a pool.
Ball-Nogues Studio, an LA-based integrated design and fabrication practice, is known for its installations – they won the PS1 Young Architect’s Program in 2007. For HDTS, though, the duo constructed a piece that marks a definite departure for the studio. Yucca Crater shifts away from the studio’s past sculptural installations, designed to hang delicately in the atriums and courtyards of various high-profile museums. The beauty in Yucca Crater is not its formal or generative aesthetics, but, rather, its fabrication: it’s made from the byproduct of another Ball-Nogues installation, Talus Domeis (below), an aggregation of 900 boulder sized stainless steel spheres sitting along a freeway in Alberta, Canada.
Principles Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues refer to this methodology of re-use as a “cross design,” in which projects of drastic aesthetic and tectonic makeup are generated from the same set pieces. Talus Domeis’ spheres required an intricately engineered wooden framework to form its “roadside gravel” effect of the finished piece. Yucca Crater – the 24-foot swimming-pool-and-climbing-ball at HDTS -- was created when Ball-Nougues flipped Talus Domeis’ mountainous framework 180 degrees. Panels were added to place rock-climbing holds for people to descend down into an 8-foot deep pool of water - a nod to the abandoned swimming pools scattered throughout the Mojave Desert. Yucca Crater reconstitutes the “refuse” of the creative process, creating an architectural icon and usable space in its own right.
The framework for Yucca Crater in its original form, as the framework for Talus Domeis.
Yucca Crater as well as all of the other projects from “High Desert Test Sites” 2011, have been left to the desert and can be visited by the public. For more information visit High Desert Test Sites' website.