By Mira Engler
Associate Professor, Iowa State University
The repertoire of burial sites has recently grown to include the most enduring and monstrous human-made handiwork--radioactive waste. From deep geological
mausoleums to swelling earthworks, these new creations rival and reference the prehistoric catacombs of Rome and Alexandria, the Native-American effigy mounds
of Iowa and Wisconsin, the ritual mounds of Cahokia, Illinois, and the earthworks of
Silbury Hill and Avebury Circle in Wiltshire, England. The physical and iconic
resemblance between the ancient and contemporary monuments is unmistakable.
Both are grand and ludicrous; their pricetag is colossal. In both, the quest for an
appropriate architecture and symbolism of the buried is paramount. But that's where
the similarity ends. The former is built to house the dead or monumentalized revered
gods; its counterpart entombs excess waste and hinders disaster. The ancient invites
visitation; the modern deters it.
Read this article in its entirety. (Page 10)
Designer Michael Simonian's 24110 was the winning entry in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' "Plutonium Memorial" Competition in 2001. His design proposed a prominent storage facility south of the White House in Washington D.C., under a partly lifted circular lawn "carpet."
Mira Engler received a BLA from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, and
her MLA from the University of California-Berkeley. Engler has published
extensively on public art and waste landscapes, including her book Designing
America's Waste Landscapes.