Guerilla urbanism can take many forms, as there are myriad ways to reactivate an abandoned public space or vacant building. Art exhibitions, temporary shops, ad hoc concerts—different approaches work for different properties, and it really depends on the space, neighborhood and city in question.
It’s either fitting or frivolous, then, that one New Orleans resident seems to have turned to Chuck E. Cheese’s for inspiration.
Josh Ente, who works at the New Orleans-based filmmaking company Court 13 (you might know them for this Sundance winner or this music video), recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help him turn a crumbling house into giant ball pit. Imagine neighborhood kids, their parents and young-at-heart adults gathering at an outdoor community pool filled with bouncy balls, and you get a close approximation to what Ente envisions.
The house, located on the border of the Marigny and Bywater sections of the city, is mostly a gutted skeleton, with only the walls and roof beams remaining. Though south of St. Claude Avenue—the widely acknowledged dividing line between struggling areas to the street’s north and the relatively prosperous ones closer to the Mississippi River—the house stands out as a typical example of post-Katrina blight. (See it the video accompanying Ente’s proposal, embedded below.)
A quick search on the New Orleans Assessor’s website finds that the building does have owners, though their mailing address places them nearly 100 miles away in Zachary, La. The legal description lists the property as “burned.”
[ Update: In an email, Ente explained how he drove out to Zachary to get permission from the owners, and that they are “totally on board” with the project. ]
Ente’s plan is to remove the roof, string netting around the wall frames, cover exposed beams with padding, and fill the open 30-by-16-foot space with 10- and 15-inch bouncy balls (preferable, apparently, to the smaller variety found in McDonald’s play areas).
“There’s really important work to do to bring attention to the blight and slow progress in New Orleans, and on an immediate level, to improve a dangerous pockmark in my neighborhood,” wrote Ente on his Kickstarter proposal. “Fortunately the only way I know how to fight these serious problems is to facilitate absurd, riotous joy with equal and opposite force.”
The ball pit idea joins a number of other projects looking to bring life to vacant buildings in the area. Nearby, for instance, a group of artists and musicians turned a former Creole cottage into an enormous, interactive music box.
Ente estimates that the project will cost around $4,000, and expects it will open to the public in early May. He plans to keep the ball pit open until the summer gets too hot.