Emperor Qin’s Mausoleum, 2018

A collective project and curriculum on architecture, design, sculpture and the quest for eternity, led by artist Marguerite Humeau
(January-April 2018)

Open School East invites you to join artist Marguerite Humeau for a 3 month-long collective adventure around architecture, design, and sculpture, and the quest for eternal life…

The project takes as a starting point China’s first Emperor Qin (259-210 BC). The story goes that the Emperor planned his afterlife through conceiving a mausoleum with exceptional architectural, material, sonic and aromatic qualities. He commissioned the finest craftsmen to fill the tomb with rare artefacts, to set up a flowing mechanism using mercury to simulate China’s hundred rivers and to create candles made to burn forever. To this day the mausoleum hasn’t been excavated and remains ridden with myths. It is defended by the famous Terracotta Army, built by the Emperor to protect him for infinity.

Marguerite Humeau invites OSE Associates and members of the public to collectively rebuild and bury a version of the mausoleum, using contemporary materials and local natural resources, and to keep the Emperor alive!

She has gathered experts from the fields of architecture, botany and embalming to work with us over 6 workshops, which each last 2 days. This journey into architecture, art, design and life could take many different directions, and it will be for the group to decide.

You don’t have to come to every session or to the 2 full days every time, you can drop in and out as your schedule allows.


Thursday 11 – Friday 12 January 2018, 12-6pm
#1 The Team / The Spot

Who is the Emperor? Who are the artisans? Who are the warriors? Where will we keep the Emperor alive? Where will we bury the mausoleum? In this workshop led by Marguerite Humeau and guest artist and designer Maki Suzuki, we will start building the framework of the project, defining and disrupting roles, and choosing the best location for the burial.

Thursday 1 – Friday 2 February 2018, 12-6pm
#2 The Emperor’s Eternal Body

We will work with local embalmer Harry Nobel, who will teach us about the history and art of embalming. We will learn techniques, tools and knowledge drawn from Harry’s field to develop sculptural methods and an understanding of materials that can survive time. We will also use embalming techniques metaphorically, to think about eternity and the afterlife.

Thursday 8 – Friday 9 February 2018, 12-6pm
#3 Elixirs of Life

How do we create immortality? How do we make elixirs? We will work with botany expert Lucia Stewart, who will take us on a foraging expedition along Margate’s shoreline. We will look for millennial coastal and sea plants associated symbolically and in more straightforward ways with eternal life. We will also transform plants to use them as building materials.

Thursday 22 – Friday 23 February & Thursday 1 – Friday 2 March, 12-6pm
#4 The Architecture / The Ecosystem, part I
#5 The Architecture / The Ecosystem, part II

What would an architecture of eternal life look like? What could be the equivalent to Emperor Qin’s simulation of China’s 100 rivers? How can we seal and protect the ecosystem of the new mausoleum? In this two-part workshop, we will work with architect Owen Watson to conceive and construct an architecture, with the use of locally available materials, that can start answering these questions.

Thursday 22 – Friday 23 March 2018, 12-6pm
#6 The Ceremony

What will the Emperor and his entourage wear? What will they chant? How will they perform the burial ritual? For this last session, we are joined again by Maki Suzuki who will help us seal the mausoleum project and prepare for the final event and public presentation of what the group has collectively made.

In between sessions and in preparation for The Presentation, the group will meet at different intervals according to their inclination and availability to progress on the architecture and interior ambience of the mausoleum.

Saturday 21 April, 2-6pm
The Presentation

An event to briefly unveil and then bury the mausoleum-inspired piece of art, design and architecture, and to celebrate eternal life!

Free to attend, open to all, accompanied by refreshments, snacks and elixir tasting.