This Architect Is Building a Monument for the World's Extinct Species

A bold reminder of mankind's lethal impact

Jun 16, 2016
Outside
Outside Magazine
African

Architect David Adjaye.    Photo: Jason Schmidt/Trunk Archive

We’re now living in what’s sometimes referred to as the sixth mass extinction—an era during which humans have contributed to the disappearance of nearly 1,000 ­species. There’s little sign that the crisis is slowing, so architect David Adjaye—best known for his work on the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo—created a towering reminder instead. “It’s a moment of sharp reflection on how we relate to nature,” says Adjaye. In 2011, he completed the design of the Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory, to be built on the Isle of Portland, in southern England. During construction of the $40 million structure, sculptors will carve images of every known species that has ­vanished from the planet into the stones. Though the monument is tentatively slated to open in 2019, more blocks will be added as animals continue to go extinct. “The loss of biodiversity is a critical issue facing our world,” says Adjaye. “I’ve always believed that architecture is a tool to help us understand our relationship to our context.” 

unnatural-history-illo.jpg
Click to Enlarge   Photo: Bryan Christie Design

Long View

From the observatory at the top, visitors will be able to look out over an 18th-century stone quarry, ten acres of which will be restored to grassland to help support native species. 

Death Spiral

As more species vanish, a team of sculptors will carve their images in stone, extending the structure upward. 

Home Grown

The stones used in the memorial will be made from local Portland stone, which is filled with fossils. 

Set in Stone

Sculptors from around the world will carve the images of extinct species

Source Material

The building’s design is inspired by the Portland Screw, a fossil of a snail that was once abundant on the island.

Sound the Alarm

Curators will ring the Bell of Biodiversity, in the center of the monument, each year on World Biodiversity Day, in May. They will also ring it to mark extinctions.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Special Holiday Offer: Save 79% and Get a Free Gift!

Subscribe
Holiday Bow