From Cancer to Cosmos, projet pour la ville de Lyon, non réalisé, 1983

My project forms a link between the subterranean, a rarely explored urban space, and the five principal stars of a particular constellation, Cancer. In a nutshell the idea is to construct an underground network linking five manhole covers, the positions of which correspond to the five stars. The manhole covers would be specially made from cast iron with the upper surface like that of risers or feeders, as used in foundry practise where the molten metal rises to the surface, pockmarked with bubbles, similar to a volcanic eruption. (see photo) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riser_(casting)

These covers would be set at ground level in their casings with a small irregularity which would mean that when walked over they would move slightly, rocking slightly back and forth producing a distinctive clunking sound that would echo through the underground network linking them together. These collectively would form a resonance chamber, which would amplify the sound produced by the irregularly seated cast-iron covers and make tangible the idea of an invisible continuity between distinct, distant points.

Conceptually, the piece links a series of ideas; the stellar crab/crayfish configuration gives its name to the constellation, whereas in the world of medicine the first cancers to be identified were those affecting the skin, the physician Hippocrates being the first to describe cancer using the Greek word “karkinos” because the tumours resembled the shape of a crab. Metaphorically the ground of the city becomes a skin, the form of the constellation set into its surface. Beneath it, the subterranean network is related to foundry practise, vases communicants in French, communicating vessels, although invisible, the subterranean space is continuous.

The simple fact of walking over one of these cast iron covers and hearing the underground echo sets off a chain of thought, initiated by seeing the particular texture of the manhole covers, continued by the tactile contact with the feet, reinforced by the audible response and the comprehension of the link between these openings into the earth and the subsequent comprehension of their interrelation and finally concluded by the contemplation of the stars. A continuous movement from the subterranean world out into the night sky.

Dating from the early 1980s, the project, originally imagined for the town of Lyon in France, was never adopted.

http//e-flux.com/aup/project/peter-briggs-from-cancer-to-cosmos/