Containing Uncertainty is a response to the ONKALO deep geologic repository currently under construction in Olkiluoto, Finland. Here, humans are attempting to design an infrastructure capable of safely and securely quarantining nuclear waste for the next 100,000 years. If ONKALO opens as planned in 2020 it will be the first, and only, repository in the world storing high-level nuclear waste.

The piece includes a 72" square artist schemata of the repository design, accompanying text, images, and samples of the geologic materials used to quarantine nuclear waste at the facility (bentonite clay, gneiss bedrock, and copper).

The piece draws poetic connections between the contemporary act of designing a deep geologic repository and historic human efforts to design architectures and/or infrastructures that connect humans to what exceeds them (the cosmos, geologic time).

Containing Uncertainty will be exhibited at the Storefront for Art and Architecture from March 10th- April 17th, 2010 as part of the Landscapes of Quarantine exhibition. The concept of the piece was developed over the course of an 8-week studio facilitated by Geoff Manaugh (BLDG BLOG) and Nicola Twilley (Edible Geography). Additional information about the studio can be found here and here.

Two longer written pieces about Containing Uncertainty (Containing Uncertainity: Design for Infinite Quarantine and Subterranean Imagination and the Aesthetics of Nuclear Voids) can be found on the FOP news | repository.

artists' schemata of ONKALO, detail Containing Uncertainty 2010


Gneiss bedrock from the ONKALO repository, approx. 2 billion years old, detail Containing Uncertainty 2010






Gneiss bedrock excavated from ONKALO to create a space of infinite quarantine.
gneista: Old Norse, to give off sparks.
The gneiss bedrock at ONKALO is approximately two billion years old.





Bentonite has been used medicinally for hundreds of years by indigenous cultures. Increasingly, practitioners of alternative medicine employ it as an intestinal detoxifying agent. Bentonite clay is used to protect ONKALO’s copper-encased canisters from corrosion in two ways. When bentonite comes into contact with water, it swells rapidly and acts as a barrier. It also prevents bacteria from establishing themselves on the copper canisters.





Copper has been used for centuries as a healing agent to improve circulation of blood, detoxify, and reduce inflammation. One final repository container at ONKALO has 10 metric tons of pure copper on its outer shell.

copper bracelet, detail Containing Uncertainty 2010

world navels, after William Morrish, detail Containing Uncertainty 2010


From left to right:
Omphalos: Greek: navel. A common, ancient religious stone. The Omphalos at Delphi, in the Temple of Apollo, marked the exact centre of the Greek universe.

Township mound: Established by Congress in 1796, American township surveys begin with the making of a small mound. The township grid “rendered the open chaos of the American wilderness into a foundational framework, a democratic [equalized] terrain, for the expansion of a nation” (William Morrish).

Garden Mount: the urban mountain uses the mountain form to provide stature, community order and individual expression within complex and dense terrains.

Milestone: At the centre of Rome, a milestone was erected to mark the presumed centre of the empire. All roads were considered to begin from this milestone and all distances in the empire were measured relative to it.

World Mountain:
Viewed from above, the vertical point of a mountain makes it the center of the world. Seen from below, mountains stand against the horizon like World Axes. Mountains are both the center and the axis of the world.

: the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. Some cornerstones include time capsules.

Deep Geologic Repository: The entrance to the repository’s omphalos is at the center of the island. Its spiral tunnel connects the present day world with deep geological space and time–past and future. It uses a labyrinthine form to position present day humans in relation to the cosmic order of past and future

ONKALO geologic repository as world navel, modeling clay and bentonite clay, detail Containing Uncertainty 2010

ONKALO through the force of time, heat, gravity, bentonite clay, detail Containing Uncertainty 2010

detail Containing Uncertainty 2010

installation, Containing Uncertainty 2010 at the Storefront for Art and Architecture


installation, Containing Uncertainty 2010 at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

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