david adjaye's MEMO based on portland spiral fossil formation
david adjaye's MEMO based on portland spiral fossil formation david adjaye's MEMO based on portland spiral fossil formation
jun 19, 2013

david adjaye's MEMO based on portland spiral fossil formation

david adjaye’s MEMO based on portland spiral fossil formation

image © adjaye associates




conceived as a sublime stone spiral, the mass extinction monitoring observatory (MEMO) is set to overlook the majestic jurassic coast on the isle of portland, england’s only geological world heritage site.  architecture, landscape and environmentalism resonate together in the design by london-based architect david adjaye. the structure will reflect the location both in form and tectonics, enjoying a site laden with a rich tradition stone masonry and carving replete with a definitive source of fine portland limestone– a material ubiquitous in great works of architecture from the time of the romans. the observatory will be embedded in a landscape that charts 185 million continuous years of the history of life. serving as a vivid exemplar of sustainable construction, it will be embedded within the landscape from which its materials are cut.  the very idea of extinction as a natural phenomena was discovered from portland fossils by robert hook  in 1666; so the program is appropriately a biodiversity education center that both physically and informatively expresses the 860 species determined extinct since the dodo, all commemorated with a carved stone per species that skins the interior.



the building overlooks the jurassic coast on the isle of portland in great britain

image © adjaye associates



the building will be made of local stone quarried from the site and compensated for with a below grade education center

image © adjaye associates



both monument and building, the design is informed by the turreted shape of the portland screw, a characteristic fossil that has architecture written into its very biological description. the ground level will be accessed by a cut into the built mass and a tunnel into the ground, both of which lead into a continuous spiral walkway that finds its zenith in a great, bell-adorned oculus. the void links earth and sky and allows access to expansive views of the ocean and nearby chesil beach. the 21 meter height will mark the same dimension removed below ground by quarrying. the below grade space will house the all important education center that will share the stories of species that have perished in totality and implore that future loss is avoidable with an architecture that will capture public imagination.



tim smit, co founder and CEO of the eden project and principal advisor to MEMO shares:


the MEMO project is beautiful, it is powerful and its message is simple. its location, like a sentinel surveying the vast landscape of life past and present on our fragile planet, is perfect. its creation will provide a global icon to our need to respect and protect the natural world and will ask, in its mute testament whether we are worthy of the name we gave ourselves: homo sapiens – the wise hominid.



the macro-narrative of geological life meets the story of modern extinction

image © adjaye associates



carved portland stone models by master stone mason alex evans express the sublime spiral circulation

image courtesy of the MEMO project



the model additionally shows the opening of the oculus to the ocean observatory deck

image © adjaye associates



building section

image © adjaye associates


tim smit, co founder and CEO of the eden project and principal advisor to MEMO, talks about the importance of the project

video © moving content

video courtesy of MEMO

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