Since the Cold War era, governments around the world have grappled with the disposal of dangerous transuranic nuclear waste, whose decay process will last for thousands of years. As this decay process occurs, the millions of barrels of radioactive waste buried in repositories deep beneath the earth’s surface must remain undisturbed. In their latest ideas competition, arch out loud challenged designers to submit proposals for an architectural marker or marker system at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant that ensures that future societies know about the dangerous nature of such sites.
The competition concluded with one grand prize winner and three runners-up, which you can see below. Ten honorable mentions were also selected.
1st place: “TESTBED” by [ AGENCY-AGENCY ] – TEI CARPENTER, ARIANNA DEANE, ASHELY KUO | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, USA
Project summary: “Testbed transforms the WIPP area into an experimental field of climate engineering that manipulates the geology of the site itself by setting in motion an open-ended assemblage of processes that generate an entangled scientific earthwork of hybrid formations.Testbed deploys an array of C02 capturing strategies across the site to generate an active marker system that uses climate engineering to store one form of energetic byproduct—CO2—in the surface, above the transuranic waste secured below. Through continued transformation, these new geological forms mark the site as something deeply strange and unfamiliar and communicate its otherness by intervening in fundamental processes. Testbed takes advantage of the site’s compromised condition to encumber it through experimentation, doubling down on disturbance to ensure the site will remain undisturbed.”
Runner-up: “A CRYSTALLINE FUNERAL” by JIAHUI GUO, BIN YAN | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, USA
Project summary: “How can an isolated landmark reveal itself as a coffin to seal the radioactive nuclear wastes, and how can the crystalline funeral, reveal and warn the considerable influence of human power to the future generation throughout the 10,000 duration of decay of nuclear substance, and probably, the human being as well? Salt crystal, which constantly seals the nuclear substance underground, will be regarded as a metaphoric connection between the funerals on the ground and the ones under it. Extra salt crystals in or around the site will be collected to build series of crystalline coffins, to seal the extinct species, one for each year, an ongoing funeral which lasts for 10,000 years, when the central church seals the last human being…”
Runner-up: “LODESTAR” by NOAH GREEN, RYAN RIDEOUT, GILBERTO VILLALOBOS | SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, USA
Project summary: “For millennia, cultures across the world have attached deep significance to celestial movements and cycles. Ancient civilizations derived meaning from constellations and planets and wove astrology into mythology and religion. In the second millennium, sailors used the stars to navigate an unknown world. Among these stars, the North Star has held the greatest importance as a means of wayfinding. Lodestar relies on simple architectural gestures to communicate the danger buried deep within the site. Tied to greater celestial movements, the landmark is not dependent on language or a site steward to communicate the passing of 10,000 years.”
Runner-up: “A STORM IS BLOWING FROM PARADISE” by STEVEN SHIMAMOTO | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, USA
Project summary: “A contrast between monument and terrain signifies a tension between geological resources and human affliction. This monument symbolizes a parasitic operation that reaches deep into the darkest side of humanity. It is a memorial for the exploitation of Mother Earth, the Native American mining communities, the genius of scientists, 130,000 individual lives, and the endless generations to come that are affected by these operations. Volcanic basalt stone wraps the perimeter of the 16 mile site. Within this, large boulders fill the interior. These boulders would erode and slip out of the open corners of the monument, eventually to become cemented into the geological strata; a physical recording of anthropocentric presence and perhaps, absence.”
You can find each project’s board in the gallery below. Full competition results can be found on arch out loud’s website.