American artist Taryn Simon and architecture practice OMA have built 11 concrete wells inside New York’s Park Avenue Armory for a show exploring grief.

The 45-ft-tall cylinders are inhabited by 30 professional mourners from around the world for the installation, An occupation of Loss. The hollow towers – inspired by ‘Towers of Silence’ built by the followers of an ancient religion called Zoroastrianism to expose dead bodies to carrion – are constructed from stacked concrete rings and and feature doorways at their base.

‘Visually and sonically, I kept gravitating toward the form of a well, but I wanted it to be super-terrestrial and have height instead of depth while retaining the echo, the reflection, and the vertigo,’ says Simon.

Photography: Naho Kubota
Photography: Naho Kubota

Inside the wells, mourners from Albania, Greece, Venezuela, Kyrgyzstan and Burkina Faso, among other nations, perform their ritual laments of grief each evening, the sounds of which echo through the cylinders into the Armory’s vast hall.

‘The design was sonically-motivated focusing on the performative act of loss rather than its physical manifestation,’ said OMA’s Shohei Shigematsu.

Visitors to the show can climb inside the cylinders during the day and perform laments of their own over recordings of the mourners.

An occupation of Loss is a joint commission by the Armory and Artangel, and runs until 25 September.

Read next: Oscar Wilde’s prison cell opens as part of Artangel’s exhibition in Reading 

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