A Cenotaph for Tailings

[Image: From "Mining Cenotaph" by Alexis Quinteros Salazar; courtesy of the RIBA President's Medals].

Here's another project from the RIBA President's Medals, this one by Alexis Quinteros Salazar, a student at the University of Chile in Santiago.

Called "Mining Cenotaph," it imagines an "occupation" of the tailings piles that have become a toxic urban landmark and a spatial reminder of the region's economic exploitation.

[Image: From "Mining Cenotaph" by Alexis Quinteros Salazar; courtesy of the RIBA President's Medals].

A museum would be carved into the tailings; in Salazar's words, this would be a "building that captures the history and symbolism behind mining, enhancing and revitalizing a memory that is currently disaggregated and ignored and has a very high touristic potential."

[Image: From "Mining Cenotaph" by Alexis Quinteros Salazar; courtesy of the RIBA President's Medals].

In an architectural context such as this, the use of the word "cenotaph" is a pretty clear reference to Étienne-Louis Boullée's classic speculative project, the "Cenotaph for Newton." Over multiple generations, that has become something of a prime mover in the history of experimental architectural design.

Punctured walls and ceilings bring light into the interior—

[Image: From "Mining Cenotaph" by Alexis Quinteros Salazar; courtesy of the RIBA President's Medals].

—while the roof is a recreational space for visitors.

Of course, there are a lot of unanswered questions here—including the control of aerosol pollution from the tailings pile itself and that pile's own long-term structural stability—but the poetic gesture of a public museum grafted into a pile of waste material is worth commending.

[Image: From "Mining Cenotaph" by Alexis Quinteros Salazar; courtesy of the RIBA President's Medals].

The detail I might like this most is where the structure becomes a kind of inversion of Boullée's dome, which was pierced to make its huge interior space appear illuminated from above by constellations. Here, instead, it is the perforations in the the rooftop that would glow upward from below, as if in resonance with the night skies high above.

[Image: From "Mining Cenotaph" by Alexis Quinteros Salazar; courtesy of the RIBA President's Medals].

Salazar's project brings to mind a few other proposals seen here over the years, including the extraordinary "Memorial to a Buried Village" by Bo Li and Ge Men, as well as Brandon Mosley's "Mine Plug" (which actually took its name retroactively from that BLDGBLOG post).

Click through to see slightly larger versions of the images over at the RIBA President's Medals website.

[Image: From "Mining Cenotaph" by Alexis Quinteros Salazar; courtesy of the RIBA President's Medals].

Finally, don't miss the Brooklyn food co-op posted earlier, also a recent President's Medal featured project.

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Anonymous Tulse said...

"Of course, there are a lot of unanswered questions here—including the control of aerosol pollution from the tailings pile itself"

I actually think that that aspect is crucial to the project -- it is a tourist destination whose very qualities discourages lingering, as a way to emphasize its nature.

January 19, 2015 4:44 PM  
Blogger Josh Greenberg said...

So, wait, there are just giant holes in the roof of this thing? Isn't that a huge hazard? Even if it's glass, I wouldn't trust it.

January 19, 2015 4:52 PM  
Anonymous WAACed out said...

When I was in architecture school, every time I ever mentioned a real world concern, like "wouldn't this thing need parking?" or "how would you actually make that building work with the tides?' faculty eyes rolled and they acted like I was an idiot for even being concerned with garbage like that.

I mentioned the second question because I was a student at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center or WAAC when the annual competition the the Virginia AIA hosts for VA students was based on the idea of a water taxi station on the Potomac located pretty much where the National Mall's axis intersects with the river.

Anyone who knows DC well knows what a ridiculous concept that is in the first place since anyone arriving there from Alexandria, which is on the other side of the river would basically be dropped in the middle of nowhere with no access to other transportation.

The whole premise was absurd, none of the prize winning entries dealt with the obvious need for at least a bus stop, the top award winning concept ignored the tide, imagined wildlife living in perfect harmony with the throngs of people who blissfully milled around the renderings somehow avoiding the goose droppings and the mud.

I had to escape that lunatic asylum and now whenever I see that an architecture project has won some prize, I don't even both to find out more.

February 21, 2015 7:58 PM  

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