Grounded Angel, Rocky Mtn Arsenal CO
Hidden from the public view, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was a military facility used to produce and store chemicals developed for chemical warfare during the Second World War. Most of the chemicals still remain hidden within the land, without adequate day-to-day monitoring. In addition to the chemicals developed for war, there are many other large quantities of toxic waste on the 50 square-mile site. Over 11 million gallons of concentrated toxic sludge, by-products of chemicals whose lethality is typically measured in milligrams, were dumped into open-air trenches and basins over three decades. At least 432 million cubic feet of soil remain contaminated, and unknown amounts have penetrated into the ground-water, resulting in an area considered the most polluted square mile on earth. This project attempts to position the designer and the public to take responsibility for the toxins and chemicals accumulating in landfills.
This design communicates the consequences of these toxins in the earth and communicates something of the process of healing the earth. The structure is a place for the temporary storage of toxic waste, visible and monitored constantly, for the research of methods for safely transforming the waste, and a place that will educate visitors about this process. This is an architecture of reclamation, an architecture that seeks to identify and create a contemporary sacred site, a place that will introduce ceremony and ritual into our lives. The sacred, in this case, is the act of pilgrimage. Participation and involvement in a sacred journey creates a spiritual experience and instills in participants a sense of their place and meaning in society. The design explores how architecture can define a physical location where the unification of humanity, nature, and technology is celebrated as a healing ceremony.
The design drew on several influences of form: that of the pregnant figure to suggest new life and the regeneration of the earth, that of the Egyptian mummy, and of the funeral barge to suggest death and embarking for a new life, and that of the monumental figure in the landscape. The figure reclines slightly above the surface of the earth, avoiding a dominating vertical language and expressing the power of transformation.
As visitors move through the structure, they interact visually with the toxins that are safely encapsulated in glass urns. From the air, the structure would appear as a warning beacon about the hazards and history of the site. From the ground, the structure is a monument to the connection between humanity, nature and technology.