Department of Unusual Certainties

Preservation Hole . Mine the Gap

source: Department of Unusual Certainties

Preservation Hole was DoUC’s submission to the Mine the Gap competition held by the Chicago Architectural Club.  The brief of the competition asked competitors to think of  a new use for a giant gaping hole in the middle of the city – the beginnings of a shelved project to build the Calatrava-designed Spire Tower.  The project fell through during the global economic crisis, and a 70 feet deep hole remains on the site.

Preservation Hole

“Preservation Hole” is a civic institution dedicated to the preservation of things. Its program is derived from the things we commonly preserve underground – food, time capsules, and bodies. Correspondingly the Hole is divided into three Sectors:

The People’s Food Emporium – Citizens bring locally grown/raised food to the PFE to be processed and preserved through various means (curing, smoking, jarring etc.) and stored. The PFE is also a place for education and celebration of local food and acts in part as a local food bank, insuring that the poorest citizens have access to healthy food.

The Chicago Memory Archive – The CMA is essentially a very large archive of personal time capsules. The New Chicago Constitution of 2011 guarantees every citizen one time capsule to be stored at the CMA in perpetuity. Citizens choose how public they want their capsule to be. Private rooms and special viewing tables allow people to inspect the capsules. Exhibitions are made documenting capsule objects, stories, and memories. Historians and anthropologists are invited to conduct studies of the boxes. The CMA captures a comprehensive set of small snapshots of the everyday.

The Chicago Cryptorium – a cemetery in the middle of the city, hundreds of metres underground. A ceremonious spiral down the hole leads funeral processions to the chambers that will house the deceased. As more people are laid here to rest, the hole digs deeper into the earth’s core.


As disparate as these three sectors seem, there is logic to bringing them together under one public terrain. Preservation Hole embodies the value of slow processes, cherishing objects, personal histories and the equal privileging of every citizen – broadcasting a strong message to the city itself, from the city’s own bowels.

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