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Entrant Name
Lead Pencil Studio

Design Team
Lead Pencil Studio: Annie Han & Daniel Mihalyo

Architect of Record - SRG Partnership CH2MHill - Client Representative Excavation- Russ Brown Excavation Landscape Design and Labor: Kevin Long of Urban Wilds Lead Pencil Studio fabrication team: Ian Gill, Liz McDonald, Mike Knapke, Josh Powell, Justin McKoon, Curtis Bundy

Owner / Client
Oregon State Hospital Oregon State Arts Commission

Oregon State Hospital Memorial Columbarium

All Submissions > Scale 1: Human Scale

The Oregon State Hospital dates back to 1883 and is notorious as the 1975 location for Kesey’s film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Once a progressive facility with 3,000 beds, the hospital fell into decline in the intervening century and developed a tragic reputation for patient care. In 2004, an embarrassing discovery, followed by Pulitzer winning Oregonian journalism, brought attention to the existence of 5,000 deceased patients improperly warehoused in rapidly decaying and sopping-wet copper urns - 1,500 of which had mysteriously disappeared. The remaining 3,500 urns contain the flooded ashes of patients whose family was unknown at the time of death. In response to this discovery, inspired political leadership in the State organized to demolish much of the historic campus and rebuild with a modern facility. A small 1896 building, once the crematorium, was set aside for possible backdrop use as a memorial to the patients.

Though desired, the Hospital determined that there was no funding to support construction of a mausoleum.

None the less, we felt strongly that an immediate corrective gesture must be taken to bring dignity to the dead by providing a simple new urn. On learning that the least expensive on-line urn was $100+ and with a multiplier of 3,500, the $400,000 additional budget proved impossible. In response we applied for a residency at the Kohler Company (WI) and worked 3 months last fall in the factory making 3,500 porcelain urns with donated materials. Overcoming a difficult historic landmark battle, we won permission to enlarge an opening on a former party wall - allowing the public to view the entire collection of the now-empty copper urns – which silently communicate their own story. The gray columbarium wall outside privately houses the ceramic urns and describes the footprint of a demolished 1940’s concrete crematorium once attached to the 1896 building. The metal filigree transparently describes the windows and upper extent of that former structure. With the names of the deceased no longer hidden by doctor/patient privacy, blood relatives can now claim both new and old urns in a ceremonial act that increases transparency of the columbarium wall. With each claim a perforation is made with insertion of a brass tube. 31 urns have been claimed since the memorial opened in July.

Though incidental, we performed all construction labor and cremains transfers aided by local university forensic class volunteers.