["Landscape of Thorns" | Image: Screenshot from Containment]
Architect Michael Brill, who died in 2002, was one participant in a 1991 study commissioned by the US Department of Energy through the Sandia National Laboratory. In Brill's words, "DOE wants to make a permanent warning at this burial site of its dangers, to help prevent inadvertent release of radioactivity into our descendant's food chain, water supply, and air. The warning must endure, be found and understood." But without any guarantee that our languages would be around in 10,000 years (a duration based, I'm guessing, on the half-life of radioactive elements), something besides warning signs are necessary. Therefore Brill and his team focused on "a multi-modal communication system," a "'natural language' of form," and "enduring phenomena shared by all human beings‑-things that are species-wide now, probably always have been, and will continue to be."
They devised seven test designs, some of them covered in Containment:
- Landscape of Thorns
- Menacing Earthworks
- Black Hole
- Spikes Bursting Through Grid
- Rubble Landscape
- Forbidding Blocks
- Spike Field
See also Mammoth and WIPP's Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The full Containment documentary can be watched here.