• Image about Brent Blake
By Alison Seiffer

Would you visit a giant lava lamp? The residents of tiny Soap Lake, Wash., are banking on it.

The view from Brent Blake’s window shoots right through downtown Soap Lake, Wash., past the soft glow of the Masquers Theater marquee and the neon of the Del-Red Pub, ending about a mile away where the paved roads give way to sagebrush and high desert. Situated at the corner of Main Street and state Route 17, this view is all that most people ever see of town as they blow through en route to someplace else.

The locals, however — all 1,735 of them — see much more. They see the potential of a once-bustling resort town where thousands of early-20th-century vacationers spent summers soaking in the lake’s waters, widely believed to be therapeutic. They see the allure of a rugged, almost martian landscape carved by the cataclysmal force of an ice age flood. They see a home base from which hikers, hunters and boaters have easy access to the outdoors. And they see hope in the world’s largest lava lamp standing in the middle of town, drawing the curious off the highway with its slow, hypnotic, goopy glow.

But nine years into efforts to build the 65-foot-tall whimsical wonder, they’ve also seen the reasons no one has ever before constructed a six-story tower of lights, hot wax and oil. Impractical, expensive and underfunded, the Soap Lake Lava Lamp has proved more complicated to build than anyone had ever imagined. But that hasn’t stopped the townsfolk. “The lava lamp will happen in Soap Lake,” says the town’s mayor, Wayne Hovde. “When? I can’t tell you — but it will happen.”

Blake first conceived of the world’s largest lava lamp in May 2002, while staring out the window and thinking of ways to convince tourists to pull into town and spend money. “Ever-changing, never the same — it would draw people like crazy,” Blake says. “It would make it a great tourist attraction.”


“You need to find what your city has that no place else does, and just market it until the cows come home.”

While the lava lamp may sound bizarre, next to Blake’s full body of work, it seems perfectly reasonable. An architect, magazine publisher and artist, the long-haired, gray-bearded impresario seems to have never heard the word can’t. A tour of his Soap Lake Art Museum begins with his electric chess set, made of sockets and light bulbs and wired entirely by Blake himself. He mummifies everyday objects like tennis rackets and toaster ovens on commission. At Dry Falls, the horseshoe-shaped chasm 20 miles north of Soap Lake that dwarfs Niagara Falls and is believed to have once been the world’s largest waterfall, Blake proposed building a self-perpetuating, man-made cascade. (“If a dry falls is interesting,” Blake reasons, “a wet falls is spectacular.”) And on a table sits a model of his next proposed project, “Soaphenge,” a re-creation of the famous prehistoric monument using giant concrete bars of soap. “This is doable,” he says. “It would only cost around $100,000.”