Last October, this structure was filled with saltwater; you could climb up the curved outer walls, survey the reflective ripples, and jump right in – escaping the desert heat for a refreshing swim. The interior surfaces even had brightly coloured rock-climbing holds, so you could perch yourself at various points in the structure – either to practice diving from different angles or perhaps just take a break. It was a welcoming, man-made oasis in an arid landscape, fifteen miles from human civilisation.
Yucca Crater, designed by Los Angeles-based Ball-Nogues Studio for the two-day event, High Desert Test Sites, in California’s Mojave Desert, was always supposed to be temporary. Since the event, it has been left to the forces of the desert, which presumably has caused that once refreshing water to stagnate and evaporate, and has perhaps provided shelter to several lizard families or something of the sort. The basket-like work has a certain beauty to it; it mimics the surrounding landscape and is structurally reminiscent of hand-crafted weaving methods, with open frames revealing the bright blue sky and interior slats alternately placed providing a rhythmic and boat-like curvature to the inner surfaces.
Interestingly, the entire structure could simply never have been regarded as a “structure” at all. It is actually a byproduct of a previous design project by the same studio. The Talus Dome, produced by Ball-Nogues in 2011 as a sculptural installation for a site in Edmonton, Canada, is completely different in appearance and location. It is a mound of steel spheres, placed beside a busy freeway and often surrounded by snow. The cold connotations of steel and the heaviness it embodies are thrown into stark contrast when compared with the light, dry and airy piece in the desert. Yet, they are of the same mould – literally. In fact, Yucca Crater is the mould, or “formwork”, used to create the mound of steel spheres – inverted and redeployed as a temporary recreational facility, and presently abandoned to the forces of nature.