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Eternally Yours : Human[ity] Shield

Part 2 Project 2009
Claire Jamieson
Royal College of Art, UK
Can the disposal of nuclear waste be ensured for 10,000 years by a mythology embedded in an image of love?

Increasing demand for cheap, carbon-guilt free energy has led to a resurgence of nuclear power, by 2020, the UK will have a new generation of power plants whose waste legacy will stay radioactive for 10,000 years – during which it must be protected from intrusion and theft. Over this timescale, the English language as we understand it will have become incomprehensible: another method of communication must be created. Rather than rely on predictable ‘out of sight out of mind’ strategies, could a uniquely British solution strategically bury radioactive waste in central London? The vulnerable waste site is protected by a deeply rooted association with love, (one of our most enduring values), in the hope that we are more likely to protect something that we cherish and worship than something which we fear.

Fear of radioactivity is assuaged by a layered narrative and a celebratory nostalgia embedded into a national monument aligned to the best of British heritage brands. St. James’s park is strategically chosen as a location deeply ingrained in the British psyche: surrounded by the Royal Family, the government and the army – some of Britain’s most trusted institutions. In 2028 the waste is ceremonially delivered to site, then sealed, making way for an iconic, rubenesque building whose evolution is calculated to communicate over vast timescales. A sequenced ruination choreographs the decay of the outer shell to reveal a strange and sensual contemporary Stonehenge in 6480, then finally an observatory-like chapel by 12014. To replace language, could a mythology connected to love, passed through generations and civilizations provide the sacred legend required to protect the site from destruction?

The project is a hypothetical solution to a complex problem, and presents a critique of contemporary society – a world willing to accept even the most shocking and grotesque, provided that it is packaged and presented in an appealing way. It depicts an image of a society that truly believes in immortality and the longevity of their own culture.

Claire Jamieson

Modernism has instilled in us a deeply imbedded ideology that the role of Design and Architecture is to make the World a better place. Generally when architects design for tomorrow, they design for the perfect citizen never questioning their actual motivations or desires.

In opposition to this, Claire embraces a society that selfishly adapts its value systems to maintain its status quo. We fear nuclear energy and it’s toxic legacy but our reacceptance of it now seems inevitable. No other energy source can maintain the lifestyles we have become used to?

Concentrating her investigations on St James Park, our cultural and historic centre, she uses her project to pose a simple question too often ignored by architects, “who really are the people we are designing our infrastructures for and what will their values be”? Teetering between fiction and reality, Claire grapples with an everyday reality of a society saturated with contradiction and dilemma. At the height of the BSE crises, the minister of agriculture made a very public showing of his family eating beef burgers. Would we feel safer if Buckingham Palace and Government was situated beside our toxic waste legacy? Surely nobody would endanger the Queen?

Her cautionary tale becomes a critical instrument for debate, and her open-ended speculation engages our imaginations. In contrast to existing master plans, Claire’s project is not meant to be a prediction for the future, and is not meant to be about the new. It is intended as a critique of design and social values already in place.

Claire’s project, by seductively embracing our everyday fears, encourages us to consider our own value systems, and in so doing becomes in itself a tool for change and debate.


Mr Gerrard O'Carroll
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