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Just Another Business…? An Architecture of Contradiction

Part 1 Project 2011
David Phillips
Cardiff University | UK
‘Just another business…?’ is a design-focused investigation exploring the contentious issue of prostitution in the modern city. Taking a pragmatic approach, I consider how this serious, yet often ignored problem, may be tackled by the architect.

I argue that the legalization of prostitution may offer an advantage in respect of the status quo (i.e. prohibition) by providing a safe environment for sex workers, curbing illegal trafficking and ‘cleaning up’ the streets.

The site is located adjacent to the ‘end of the line’ rail station, Trieste, Italy. A city of contradictions, Trieste’s identity is ambiguous, neither wholly embracing the Italian spirit nor conserving its Austro-Hungarian past. On the border between East and West, it is a melting pot of diverse thought and culture. Controversially, in recent years, it has been situated on one of the main trade routes for the illegal trafficking of sex workers from Eastern Europe.

In the empty city block, the site of an old World War II bunker, I propose a gentleman’s club and brothel, sex workers union and public space.

The concept evolved from studying the work of artist and visionary Joseph Beuys. I explored the use of fat, a primitive organic material and fundamental basic of life. Fat will mold and remold with temperature and time, never remaining the same. The rigid geometric form of Beuys’ ‘fat corner’ acts as a substrate, directly contradicting the plasticity of the deformable medium.

The bunker and its structure is this same substrate, subjected to processes of deformation. The geometry of the ‘cube’ acts as the seed from which the plastic sculpture evolves. The canopies of the public space are a prosthetic, clamped onto an eroded landscape. It can be conceived as both temporary and permanent.

Drawing on a wide range of precedents, I consider spatial hierarchies and the definition of public and private space. I attempt to create spaces of duality, in which a client maybe immersed in fantasy, whilst a worker may be given a sense of safety. The architectural language evolves to fit function and feeling.¬

David Phillips


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