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Pygmalion's Cathedral of Cosmetic Surgery

Part 1 Project 2009
Biten Patel
University of Brighton | UK
‘Pygmalion’s Cathedral’ to Cosmetic surgery is an architectural project manifested from the visceral psychological issues involved within the inexorable growth of Cosmetic Surgery. The project looks to tell the story of a society of cosmetic surgeons who have succumbed to the ‘Pygmalion’s Complex’: an insatiable quest to create/mould perfection, a somewhat perverse allusion to the divine act of creation. The surgeons become divine, patients become devotees, and the architecture is a veil that plays on this religious hierarchy.

With the use of tallow wax as a key material component, fantastical ritualistic spaces are created, from the bodily sins of the confessional, the 1:1 scaled before/after tallow sculptures walkway to the 'sanctum sanctorum'; the operating theatre. The Cathedral preys on the minds of the devotees, as the wax panels diffuse the surgeon’s presence into nothing more than flickering obscurities and silhouette projections. Louvers rise, floors sink, walls seep with wax, all beyond the control of the devotee, an act of divinity or an architectural illusion?

All this, wedged into the sanctuary of Brick Lane’s courtyard typology. Overlooking residents watch the peculiar performance of fleeting blurs and liquid contorted figures. The only vestige of existence for this fizzing microcosm offered to the public is a curious door and the oddity of a tallow sculpture propped against the window of the preserved facade. It is an exclusive religion awaiting discovery.

Biten Patel

Biten Patel

Astute cultural readings, fantastical narrative creation and exquisite attention to detail best describe the development of Biten’s ‘Pygmalion’s Complex’ – his response to the studio brief to develop ‘New Religions in Banglatown’; Brick Lane, East London.

Set in a de-programatised courtyard space behind Brick Lane’s street scene, Biten uses a complex, site-specific ‘space-syntax’ model for hierarchical apportionment of programme. The building is physically formed from a structural cage acting as a central heating system ingeniously designed to sustain a variable control of material liquidity of the tallow wax – designing in the potential for decay, preservation, perfection and illusion.

Using an exquisite array of hand drawing and computer techniques, Biten creates a unique graphic-cum-architectural design aesthetic – an aesthetic developed simultaneously with experiments and explorations into material performance as much as special effect and religious intent.

Rarely do undergraduate students demonstrate such a high level of cultural awareness, technical innovation and design acumen brought together with such an ability to draw.

Nick Hayhurst
Tamsie Thomson

Nick Hayhurst

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