How do we design architecture with a message that could endure for millennia ?

Since the Cold War, one of the most challenging and urgent tasks facing governments around the world has been the disposal of transuranic nuclear waste. As a by-product from nuclear weaponry production, transuranic waste is not only harmful, but also boasts a formidable decay process lasting thousands of years. To address this issue, millions of barrels of highly radioactive waste have been buried in repositories deep beneath the earth’s surface. One such disposal site is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, United States. To ensure public safety, it is imperative that the site remain undisturbed for the duration of the waste’s decay process.


arch out loud asks competition entrants to design a marker or marker system to deter inadvertent human intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The marker should exist as a means of passive institutional control of the site for the duration of 10,000 years, following the closure and deactivation of the WIPP. The purpose of the marker is to communicate with future generations that transuranic waste is buried within a repository at the facility, located 2,150 feet beneath its surface, and should remain isolated until the risks posed by its release have been sufficiently diminished.


The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located in the Chiuahuan Desert, 26 miles outside Carlsbad, New Mexico. It is managed by the U.S. Department of Energy and began disposing defense-related waste in 1999. Until 250 Million years ago, the site was completely covered by sea water. It has since left behind a stable salt bed where transuranic nuclear waste can be safely and permanently stored. Over time, it is expected that the residual salt will gradually seep into the cracks of the rooms where barrels are stored and seal the chambers of waste permanently. The extents of the site are dictated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Standards, which require a minimum boundary encircle the site separating the accessible area from the WIPP control area. In 1992, U.S. Congress designated 16 square miles within the control area as part of the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act. This surface and all subsurface below has been dedicated for all disposal operations performed at the WIPP.


Ben van Berkel – Founder/Principal, UN Studio | Harvard GSD

Eva Franch – Director, Storefront for Art and Architecture | OOAA

Marc Tsurumaki – Founder/Principal, LTL Architects | Cornell AAP | Columbia GSAPP

Elaine Molinar – Partner/Managing Principal, Snohetta

Michael Madsen – Director, “Into Eternity” Film |

Jamie von Klemperer – President/Design Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox

Theodore Hoerr – Founder/Principal, Terrain Works

Russell Patterson – Compliance Manager & Scientist, U.S. Department of Energy | WIPP

Thomas Klein – Senior Scientist, AECOM | WIPP


JUNE 7TH, 2017 – Advance registration opens
JULY 8TH, 2017 – Advanced registration closes
JULY 9TH, 2017 – Early registration opens
AUG 12TH, 2017 – Early registration closes
​AUG 13TH, 2017 – Regular registration opens
OCT 21ST, 2017 – Registration deadline
OCT 22ND, 2017 – Submission deadline
NOV 20TH, 2017 – Winners Announced

Download the information related to this competition here.

  • Title

    International Competition: Landmarker for a Nuclear Waste Site
  • Type

    Competition Announcement (Ideas)
  • Website

  • Organizers

  • Registration Deadline

    21/10/2017 23:59
  • Submission Deadline

    22/10/2017 23:59
  • Venue

    Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Carlsbad, New Mexico, USA
  • Price

    Advance – Jun 07-Jul 08: $55, Early – Jul 09-Aug 12: $75, Regular – Aug 13-Oct 21: $95