Cocoon – A National Plutonium Memorial

Honorable Mention

In 2001, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created a competition for a National Plutonium Memorial.  The idea of a “memorial”, however, was a tongue in cheek reference. Due to the extremely long half-life of this very dangerous nuclear weapon fuel and nuclear reactor by-product, the overlying purpose was to create a facility to safely store the material until it became inert or until a productive use could be found.

I approached the memorial using the metaphor of the caterpillar and the cocoon.  The memorial would be a facility that would store plutonium until it could safely emerge back into the environment in a new form.  The plutonium would be alloyed and sheathed in a lead casing and “spun” into a cable over a super structure.  A cocoon structure would emerge as more and more waste material was stored.  Since the project would be ongoing, the process would also demand a city be created for the workers and scientists and their families.  The cocoon would eventually become part of the city and flow through the buildings and streets as it got larger and larger.  The overall question being whether man would eventually be taken over by his own waste.

The entry was submitted in the form of a museum brochure that a future visitor would receive.  Tours, sites and progress of the cocoon and its city were noted with various highlights and milestones and information about the project.

Project Team:  Steven Ohlhaber, Designer

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