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Birth Unit For The Wicker Arches

Part 2 Project 2001
Louise Ciotti
University of Sheffield Sheffield UK
Part 1
The project first examines the relationship between the western medical practitioner and the passive patient, and equates this to the examination, diagnosis and treatment (insertion) of a specific site - Sheffield’s redundant rail viaduct.
Three medical insertions inflicted on the viaduct reveal a scathing critique of western medicine. They illuminate aspects of pharmocracy (augmented doctor status); iatro-genesis (doctor induced disease); and the increasing medicalisation of our society.

Part 2
In reaction to this critique, an alternative conceptual rhetoric is sought and implemented through the design of a natural birth unit. A non-interventionist structural philosophy is applied, that tries to emulate ‘acupuncture’ rather than ‘intravenous’. Slender helical anchors touch the arches lightly but do not sever or invade and leave no bruising when removed.
Two principle structural elements clip around the arch providing habitats that compliment the dramatically differing environments the structure offers; from the depth of the arch (enclosure) to the expanse of the broad viaduct and its distant panoramic (release).
The design concept and programme of the unit are intrinsically linked. The unit responds to the pregnant women in the way the building responds to the site, both acting as a coat hanger for an expose of western medicine.

Louise Ciotti


This student's project is a highly intelligent and thorough proposal which begins with a cultural critique of western medicine and moves towards an architectural and technical proposal which responds to it. In this work, a dysfunctional, redundant structure (a disused 19C railway viaduct) is analyzed as if it were a diseased patient. Comparisons are made between surveying/examining and diagnosis/analysis in order to reveal cultural similarities between the two disciplines of medicine and architecture.
Louise begins by trying to alter the nature of the viaduct by making experiments on its tissue and its interior (for example, interventions to test its strength, porosity and ability to host or reject alien objects).

The project for a birthing clinic based on non-invasive, self-help principles of medicine proposes a condition (pregnancy and childbirth) which is not technically a sickness but which has been considered so by the medical profession and, following from this, conventional architecture.

Mirroring the non-interventionist approach of holistic medicine, the birthing clinic is a lightweight structure of domestic scale which attaches itself without scarring to the existing structure. The technical analogy made here differentiates between the acupuncture needle and the hypodermic syringe. The materials and construction techniques used in the clinic are chosen in response to the site (body) and the pragmatics of the brief (functions).

2001
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