The stage is set for an act apart, the reconstructing of Building Eight by Edmond and Corrigan as a boat disenchanted with its own ocean, a genealogy that reveals a ship as the greatest reserve of imagination.
Among broken chandeliers, our path reaches a lifeboat. This lifeboat alludes to the ability of Starling’s shed to become a boat and back again, or to have always been a boat. This one raises bodies from the waters of Greenaway’s Seine, only to emerge from the ocean. A boat-barrow-boat.
Atop, a reading room and writing room express Peter Corrigan’s love of Jean Genet. The central mast holds the remains of his letters. Taut’s glass pavilion, the Eddystone Lighthouse and Ledoux’s wandering eye collide in an act that reveals Aalto’s Sanatorium as the only answer to madness.
Greta Garbo was told to think about nothing as she stood in the guise of Queen Christina, the camera drawn to her face. Like the first notes of Fellini’s opera singer to the head of the man-bride beneath Satyricon’s water, Corrigan is wed to this boat as a male transvestite, dressed in the costume of theatre.
The act? Peter Corrigan in an oversized bath, admiral’s hat on and playing, like Shakespeare’s Prospero with a toy boat. Beneath, Fellini’s slaves push, pull and twist the cogs and wheels, forcing the bathtub to roll, pitch and swivel. Corrigan can point his bath anywhere he wants on the imaginary horizon line, in the knowledge that his every movement drive the propeller of the city beneath him.
An observation deck and rooms for cartographers are provided to map Corrigan’s directions. But the mechanisms of Corrigan work here too, and there are only walls enough for one room at a time, because, as Kafka remarked, that’s all we ever really need.
From a tower Icarus found entry into the void, the moment captured as a leg protruding from the surface of the water, though precedent has been set in the gynaecological architecture of Lequeu, and in the gaze from the crosshairs of a draughtsman (not to mention the contract). All that is left to do is jump up and down to make the legs flap.
We descend to the remains of the great deluge. Noah’s ark has long since been left to rot, though Gehry’s building would surely be advantageous if the need ever arose. Gehry’s donkey, being the golden ass that it is, floated away and we have been left with only a rhinoceros – Fellini’s lovesick one at that. Beneath his iceberg roof, the rhino endures his wait, for while an iceberg never reals its depth on the surface, the rhino is captured in a surface depth, the reflection of an iceberg.
What this project follows is merely a sense of logic, that the logic of nonsense takes care of the middle and hopes that the rest will take care of itself.
A scheme that at first seemed too unlikely, indulgent and nutty to carry the mantle of winner, but one too witty and pretty and bold to ignore. Wearied by the search for a champion, though not quite exhausted, we returned to the clinic. It was clearly old school; drawing as architecture, even if the drawing was digital and finely modelled. It did reek of last-century picaresque roman-a-clef tongue-in-cheek cockamamie self-indulgent absurdist magic-so-called-realism. But slowly it drew us into the theatrical architectural world of its subject. It gently intrigued us to consider again the ambiguities and vitality of this key phase in recent architectural history. Was this possible in the first sighting of that ultimate irony, a revival of postmodernism? Or was it, more humbly, simply a painstakingly referenced and affectionate homage to that remarkable architect – Peter Corrigan?
The Clinic is unbuilt, but equally clearly it could be built, in titanium if need be, within the capabilities of contemporary construction. But should it be built? Against glittering backdrops of gluttonous consumption, implicit exploitation and shallow spectacle in millennial mega-cities, this project proffers a portrait of an individual, engrossed and engaged in catching and constructing culture. Yes, I would love to see it built, if only as a bronze casting from a wax-print model. Ideally it would be a monument at the scale of a man, with the rhinoceros sized to fit inside a human heart.