A Clock of Salt, Rock, Wind, and Rain

Competition entry, 4144 ha

New Mexico, USA

A competition to design a marker to a nuclear waste isolation pilot plant underneath a salt bed in New Mexico asked that it communicate the potential dangers for 10,000 years, and be understood by future generations and cultures.

Drawing on the works of land artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, we proposed concentric rings of basalt on which sit ninety-four salt and sandstone pillars, varying in height from the outer ring to the innermost, positioned in plan to represent the electrons in the atomic structure of plutonium-239. Inside these rings is a final marker constructed by ninety-four basalt monoliths over-clad on the outer face with the salt-rock composite. The inner faces contain warnings in multiple languages and symbols about what lies beneath.

The pillars and wall are a monumental clock; the salt-rock composite weathers away over a period of 10,000 years. The change in height between each ring means the weathering is progressive – the outer ring will weather away in 900 years, while the inner wall will last for the full 10,000 year timeline. When it has all weathered away the basalt rings and monoliths will be left behind as a reminder.

Our entry made its way through to the final.