We propose a concept that ideally need not be built, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, sanity in the guise of madness.

We propose an concept to capture global attention, to be widely publicized and discussed for its dangerous content. A radical gesture is required to shake all stakeholders out of their respective stupors. This IS a matter of life and death.

We propose an idea, of which the threat of its design and actual implementation will alarm both sides of the dispute and be the cause for dialogue to recommence and succeed in responsible compromise. We propose this Hobson’s Choice as a last resort, and a new beginning.

Optimally, once the runway is averted through mere ideas and no physical struggle, the design will subsequently be built as a monument and memorial to the will and resolution of all humankind to keep the earth a livable, breathing planet.

How can a diminutive piece of real estate stand up to “progress”? Perhaps this plot of land could speak louder—and longer—than words. What weapons (hidden forces? Apotropaic powers?) can be engaged to protect this bastion of life from impending doom? What might possibly impel David and Goliath to engage in enlightened conversation rather than toss stones at one another?

A carrot or a stick? An apple or a poison? A sword or a stone? Matter or antimatter? Everlasting life or eternal damnation? Not unlike a fairy tale, we propose the coupling of opposites, the pairing of the ultimate attractant and the dastardly deterrent, inextricably linked in a timeless embrace. What brings people together more than the sharing of food? What frightens us more profoundly than the threat of wholesale destruction? What if Greenpeace practices peace through strength?

Above ground, we propose a carrot, an apple, matter, everlasting life--a monumental, yet commodious table and benches set in an idyllic apple orchard planted over the whole site. The marble and bronze inlaid table demarcates sacred ground and at the same time, invites people to sit, contemplate, discuss, work, eat, linger. Flying from above it is unnoticed, a remnant of the areas agricultural past, its message being sent out through the media wires, not land billboards.

Directly beneath one end of the table, a stick, a poison, a sword, antimatter, eternal damnation--indicated by an inlaid universal bronze symbol for radioactivity. In the center of this warning is a glass porthole deep below the surface of which, in a concrete lined shaft rests a stainless steel capsule containing an unnamed toxin. Connected to a site embedded sensor system, such that if the site is ever disturbed or compromised, say by earth movers or drill rigs, the contaminant will be released from the capsule into the ground and air, rendering the area within a two-kilometer radius barren, unapproachable, useless—to both the residents and the airport. The chosen toxin will have a 50 year toxic duration to fend off the construction of a new runway. The site need be monitored simply by remote security systems and daytime guides and attendants.

Design Description/Installation:

Our project on the surface is a table in an orchard.

The adjacent car park is the most viable entry to this site. We would make an arrangement with the car park owners to share a lease and entry to the site to handle expected amounts of visitors and shareholders caretaking the orchard. Entering off the carpark the visitor, is presented with a loose gravel path among grass going through two skewed planted grids of local apple trees, one of the grids is in line with recently planted trees already on site. Following this only path for 20 metres path, the orchard is entered until the path splits into one large and one thin way. Signage points to The Conversation Table or orchard buildings. At this juncture, depending on the seasonal display of leaves and fruit, a partial view of a large table may present itself. Moving along the main path a larger gravel lined opening in the trees is gained, in the middle of which a marble table surrounded by benches sits.

It is supported underneath and on one overhanging end by concrete understructure and column. Inlaid bronze and corten panels are noticed on closer inspection of the top, markers of change and time. It is a formal, deliberate object at which one sits and engages in centuries worth of significant, industrious, tabletop activities. The other end of the table is seemingly held up by a wandering, organic, fuse shaped mound covered in grass. Walking up onto the mound an universal hazard symbol is viewed laid in the marble slab, in the middle of which is a glass portal that day or night glows red—threat and reminder. Grass covered “benches” carved from the mounds provide seating around the portal, which looking down into it one sees a distant source of light. The wandering mound counters the even agricultural grid of the trees and provides locations for turning away and individual contemplation.

The mound is created from soil extracted from the 100 metre deep, 2metre radius shaft dug under the end of the table. This shaft is lined with 1 meter of concrete pipe. In the bottom of this shaft is placed an undisclosed toxin and activation device. This device will be powered by a stored compressed air bladder. Stakes and mesh placed throughout the site, when significantly altered and disturbed will trigger the compressed air through the toxin, releasing it through the glass portal into the air and surrounding soil creating the intended disaster. This aspect of the design will be engineered with utmost privacy and cannot be further explained in this brief. The shaft allows for drop in by rope access, and the end piece of table is the final seal, craned into place over the hole.

The orchard will be planted as young saplings, so will require typical tending and caretaking to become a productive fruit bearing enterprise. The current huts on site will simply be moved to the eastern end of the site, where a clearance will be made in some of the tree and shrub growth to allow for the siting of the buildings. Bee hives will be maintained on site to pollinate the fruit trees and produce honey.

Our idea is designed to be supple and flexible, we imagine four possible scenarios of implementation, in order of preference…:

• Greenpeace announces this proposal as the winner. Publicized worldwide, there is shock and outrage by both proponents and opponents that anyone would carry out this plan. “Would someone really do this? Do they really want to make the land useless for everyone?” Instead of allowing this game of environmental chicken, an accord is reached, both parties give concessions to transportation and the environment. In celebration, the design is then executed, minus the toxin and shaft. The orchard flourishes in the ensuing years, fruit is harvested and this plot of land is transformed into a commemoration of fragility, possibility and hope. In 200 years, archaeologists speculate on the meaning of it all.

• If the world is complacent, the project then goes forward in every aspect, save the installation of the toxin and catalyst mechanism. This should be the tipping point in the global conscience of people getting together to stop this menace. At this point the disputing parties will gather round the table in the orchard to again find solution, stop the runway and the toxin.

• The end game is reached, dialogue is fruitless, the toxin is installed and the site is “activated.” It becomes a ticking time bomb that the other side never trips. It is safely monitored and In 50 years the half-life of the toxin has rendered it inert and the danger passes as does the building of the runway, during which time new transportation solutions will be discovered. In 200 years, archaeologists speculate on the meaning of it all.

• The nuclear scenario: construction begins with the attempt to diffuse the alert system. It fails. The toxin is released. The land is rendered useless. Those citizens who survive are evacuated. The site is abandoned, too poisonous to sustain human, animal or plant life. This plot of land is reduced to a hell on earth. In 200 years, the dim glow of the solar-powered warning beacon continues to remind even the most curious archaelogists that earlier generations made grave errors. If this really happens, then none of us are capable stewards of the earth.

Our idea avoids one on one fights and armed conflict of past interventions, this idea obliges us all to participate and be responsible for the conflict. This plot of land can speak louder—and longer—than words. This is a true beginning, and hopefully not an ending.

Building type: Installation
Competition 2010
Heathrow, United Kingdom
Primary components:
Brass, Carrera Marble, concrete, spent nuclear rods, cherry trees.
Illustrations Russel Weekes