Dupont Underground still has serious challenges, but "Raise/Raze" does its level best to meet them head-on.
[To get] a sense of the scope of Dupont Underground’s first show, try this: 650,000 tennis ball-sized transparent plastic orbs, glued and velcroed together to form cubes, the cubes stacked to make structures. It looked even more expansive when the balls filled boxes that lined a curving wall for several city blocks underneath Dupont Circle.
If all else fails: Imagine Minecraft in an actual mineshaft.
“Raise/Raze” could be the last Dupont Underground show. That’s no knock on the board or programmers who made it happen. It’s merely a recognition that Dupont Underground—which, for those who have been living underground elsewhere, is an abandoned former trolley station-turned-art pop-up space—still faces some challenges. “Raise/Raze” clarified some of them, while exposing others.
The project is the work of Hou de Sousa, a two-person architecture firm (Jia Min Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa) based in New York. It is also partly the work of Snarkitecture, another two-person design firm that brought the plastic balls to D.C. in the first place last summer for “The Beach,” an architectural installation at the National Building Museum. Hou de Sousa won the contest of proposals to take apart “The Beach” and put it back together—to turn its building blocks into building blocks, as it were.
If for no other reason, “Raise/Raze” is a winning show for realizing the sheer possibility of using elemental forms and thinking creatively about hand-me-downs. The architects figured out that plastic balls bonded together would have some struxtural strength (thanks,Buckminster Fuller). And indeed, they stack ably; they make reasonable seats, even. The plastic spheres are every bit as convincing as the parts of object-forms as they were as a sea of ballpit.