Clinic for Sleep Disorders | Douglas Darden

The Clinic for Sleep Disorders [a rondo on the study of sleep] is one of the ten projects designed by Douglas Darden that are included in his book Condemned Building. As all the projects included in the book, it is an unbuilt project, but with a powerful research behind it and remarkable illustrations. In the book we can read:

Clinic for Sleep Disorders is slipped into the Morris Canal on the periphery of Liberty State Park, New Jersey. The canal empties into the Hudson River, west of lower Manhattan. Entry into the site is from a cobblestone road adjacent to an abandoned ferry terminal once used by commuters traveling from New Jersey to Manhattan. The clinic plots for incoming patients a nearly clinical course of travel through the canal and existing hill.

All these ten projects designed by Darden were completely speculative, but he was very careful to think about the minimal details, and wrote them in a very poetical way.

Location: Morris Canal map from 1827

As is known, some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental and emotional functioning. That’s why designing a clinic to treat them is a serious task that has to reach some medical and psychotherapeutic approaches. Each person experiences the environments in a different way and the architecture designed by Darden is prescribed to the needs of the individual, mixing up different environments as Terra Firma [an earth mound that obscures the south elevation’s views], Drawn Boat [the first level transportation, driven by skilled operator] and the Cut Box [rotating surgery room] among others.

As part of the Dis/continous Genealogy: Monck’s Account of a Most Dangerous Voyage and Poligraphic recording of patient with independent narcolepsy

South Elevation

Drawn Boat


Initiation: descent to boat docked in interior canal, patient drawn upstream (low tide)
Suspension: patient lifted by crane to second level, ambulatory undulations downstream (mean tide)
Diagnosis: sleep and EEG monitoring (high tide)
Remission: prescription/theraphy/surgery (flood tide)
Release: voluntary movement of patient back across canal; almost complete return (dry land)

South elevation/section

West/East section

North/South section

Fragment of an interview conducted on 20 October 1954 in the open-air phosphorus bath surrounding the Charlesville Sleep Clinic, Marseille, France:

Doctor: What was the dream?
Arthur: (Sips medication) I was on a boat hauling cotton. We were caught in the lashing of the tides. Then there were avalanches of water in the midst of a calm. The boat was moored by fragile ropes in the fish traps of a cave. I felt that it was a swamp and that we were a whole fish, rotting in the rushes. wewere water-drunk.
Doctor: Can you remember any other dreams?
Arthur: No. The rest have been devoured by bedbugs.


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