In 1993, when joggers and cyclists got on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle for their daily dose of exercise, they came across a strange sight under University Bridge. A giant orange track, tall lavender spikes, and metal chairs attached to the concrete bridge columns comprised a new and ominous-looking art installation called “The Wall of Death.”
Some people loved the creative use of the space under the bridge—an unlikely place for an art installation of any sort. Others found it to be a strange eyesore, with some describing it as “sinister, whimsical, tacky, and really orange,” according to the Seattle Times.
The Wall of Death has stayed put for more than 20 years, and has now become a part of Seattle’s public art scene along with installations like the famous Fremont Troll, also located under a bridge in the city’s quirky Fremont neighborhood.
The installation, created by father-son duo Mowry and Colin Baden, is named after and resembles the structure used in the high-risk motordrome sport that was popular at carnivals and sideshows in the early 20th century. Riders on motorbikes or inside miniature automobiles zoomed around a cylindrical track at high speeds, defying the laws of gravity.
In Seattle too, skateboarders zoomed around on a ramp that was a part of the installation when it was first installed. But after some near misses (and some direct hits) with skaters and cyclists, concrete deterrents were added in 2008. The creators say the installation was inspired by our daily forms of movement using bicycles, skateboards, in-line roller skates, and pneumatic running shoes, all of which the creators saw as forms of art.
Know Before You Go
Free access. Take the pedestrian underpass from Roosevelt Ave, or hop on the Burke-Gilman. Alternatively, start at the "Peace Park" (another neighborhood landmark), and take the stairs down to the Wall of Death. Pedestrian or bicycle access only. If you drive to visit this site, you'll need to park at least a few blocks away and navigate to this spot on foot.
Readers report that people are living in the area and it is not recommended for tourists.