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Purity and Danger: Transplant Palermo

Part 2 Project 2004
Chloe Street
Buckley Thompson
Royal College of Art London UK
Virtual surgeons and mythical mountain saints collide in a proposal for a transplant clinic in Palermo, where live video footage connects patients in Palermo with experts in Pittsburgh.
Consequent expansion of existing facilities is well underway, yet the hi-tech clinical environment advocated via this global link threatens to overwhelm a more social and spiritually oriented understanding of the healing body practiced locally in the mythical Catholic traditions associated with Saints and curative waters.
Transplant Palermo uses biologically inspired circulatory systems of symbolic and functional water to unite these two practices. Arranged as a veil of seams or veins cloaking the soft vegetation at the foot of Monte Pellegrino, water runs as mountain streams in a continuous and self perpetuating circuit of filtration around the site. Stone water channels define thresholds of infection control below and carve out spaces for personal sanctuary within, creating a healing and temporal environment of reflected light and rhythmic water flow. Environmental, medical and symbolic structures converge to generate an architecture of pattern that makes visible the integration of these three aspects of the design.

Chloe Street
Buckley Thompson


Through recent projects in ADS1 we have developed projects in Accra, Ghana and Chennai, India by searching for points of departure that could leap over the standard approaches to development yet retain cultural and historical identity.

This year we were in Sicily, once a central hub of the Mediterranean and Goethe's "key to Italy", now a Ryanair destination polished with the glamour of Hollywood crime. We wanted to explore new possibilities on a secluded edge of Palermo where Monte Pellegrino slides into the sea.

“Transplant Palermo” develops an existing scenario. In the foreground, images from a makeshift organ transplant clinic in the city are fed live to a hospital in Pittsburgh. In the background, in return for their expertise and money, Pittsburgh desires a neutral but accessible staging post near to Africa and Arabia.

To progress this curious opportunity, Chloe weaves other activities and meanings by overlaying religious, medical and servicing systems. Water fonts and reed beds combine in a semiotic and ecological water system that echoes the biological circulatory systems of the body. This new facility, part obligatory pilgrimage, part beautiful recycling system, appears to circumscribe Monte Pellegrino under the watchful eye of Santa Rosalia, patron saint of Palermo.

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2004
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