From the book The condominium by James Graham Ballard (1975). The life of a young doctor in a London skyscraper in the middle 70s tells about the utopian dream of brutalism and how it translates into a megastructure the microcosm of society that lives in it, almost isolated from the city. Nevertheless the problems of a small society are the same as those of a large one but they become more terrible if compressed… and behold, everything goes belly up. Blame the architect.
“Ah, Dr Laing. I hear you play squash.” Yes, I do. You built all this? “Dreamt. Conceived. I hardly rolled my sleeves up. Course… the project’s far from finished. There’ll be five towers in all, circling the lake. Something like an open hand. The lake is the palm, and we stand on the distal phalanx of the index finger. There! I’ve put all my energies into this tower. I’m its midwife, so to speak.” Hm. It looks like the unconscious diagram of some kind of psychic event. “That’s good. Can I use that?” By all means. “Of course, I’m a modernist by trade, but… you, a doctor, will understand one prescribes as required.”
Ever thought of leaving the nest yourself? “I was the first to arrive. I shall be the last to leave. You recall us speaking about my hopes for the building to be a crucible for change? Well, all this has made me realise something quite fundamental. It wasn’t that I left an element out. It was that I put too many in. And now the building’s failure has offered those people the beginnings of a means of escape to a new life. Who knows? Perhaps it will become a paradigm for future developments.”
The Labirinth of Architecture
“A labyrinth is a building built to confuse men; its architecture, rich in symmetry, is subordinated to this end.” (J. L. Borges, The Immortal, in The Aleph and Other Stories)
“If we wanted and dared an architecture according to the mode of our souls (but we are too vile for this), our model should be the maze.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Aurora)
“The labyrinth is configured as a canonical architectural form that, by virtue of its components, is able to give, almost paradoxically, the idea of finding a certain number of the properties inherent in the immensity of desert space in a concentrated place, in a volume defined by external limits. Because of this ambiguous ability to give the subject both a feeling of isolation – and therefore of threat –both the opposite feeling of being in a protective system, (…) the labyrinth is therefore a canonical architectural form (…).” (M. Cristina Fanelli, Labirinti. Storia, geografia e interpretazione di un simbolo millenario)