Into the Sky: Water Burial at Mono Lake

  • The body dissolves over time in the lake, with the calcium element dissolving last and eventually reforming as a tufa.
  • The wish to keep the deceased in memory forever has been translated into landscape practices which maintain a plot in perpetuity. This approach to burial is becoming impossible for ecological and economic reasons as our population increases exponentially.
    Mono Lake is a natural aquatic ecosystem, which due to its unique chemical properties has nearly unlimited capacity to dissolve human remains. The first element of the design is a platform which allows boat access to transport the body. Its gentle ramps create an intimate, contained space at the lakes edge. The dead are memorialized just above the lakeshore on a volcanic dome called Black Point. There, holes in the polished surface of the basalt will correspond to the point in the lake where the body was dissolved. Over time, the ground will be studded with shimmering markers, nameless to the eye but legible to those with the coordinates which plot their location.
  • The pH of Mono Lake is extremely alkaline at 10. Bleach is 12, and the new cremation process of alkaline hydrolysis is 14.
  • The shore platform. 
  • Section: Shore platform allows access for a boat. Platform made of dredged lakebed material from digging boat canal. concrete retaiining walls. One side of the canal is walled, the other is a gentle slope.
  •  Cast plaster shore model
  • Plastilina Shore model
  • Water color plan and section.
  • Black point memorial.
  • foam core model of  memorial
  • full scale model of the marker which is place at Black Point.
  • The body is prepared with cloth wrappings which will react with the water on contact. A mirror is afixed at the heart so that the body might be visible to those on shore even at a distance.
  • Design process: First model shows the catafalque position on the lake shore with one hard and sloped edge.
  • testing a mirror in the water 
  • the unique ecosystem of Mono Lake.
  • A topographic model in paper, six inches equals one mile. The vertical scale is exaggerated 200 percent. Modeled to show the extreme flatness of the shore edge.
  • regional analysis: the lakes strange chemistry is a product of evaporation, in part due to its location in the Great Basin.
    The lakes distance from major population centers and  national parks.
  • Concept model: in life, material is symmetrical, organized, and defies gravity with its structure.
  • In death, material is subject to forces and complex structures collapse, reorganizing depending on weight and mass.
  • Model: Hydrolysis is a process in which a human body is vibrated in a high pH solution until all that remains are rubbery bone fragments. This is a new process, which is unsettling for many people to consider. 
    Dissolution of the body is threatening.
    Materials used: wax, pastic figure, and sumac powder.