New York, NY
For 150 years the Norristown County Prison has remained an impermeable object in the suburban fabric. Historically, the facade of the prison, and the monolithic wall which surrounds the site, separated the prisoners from society and vice versa. To the prisoners, life beyond the walls was represented through sound, memories, and inference. To the inhabitants of Norristown, the walls of the prison signify the same thing and are experienced in similar ways.
The solidness of the prison facade is difficult to remediate without completely dismantling sections of the prison's exterior. The program of the new Rural Museum does not fit neatly within the abandoned prison and building vertically is not a viable option in this rural town. By creating new space at a sub-grade level and attaching to the existing ground floor of the prison, the monolithic structure remains intact.
Taking these as a given, this project aims to maintain this division between program (previously a prison, now a Rural Museum) and park (freedom) by placing the building beneath the park.
Extrapolating on the history of the site, this project explores separated space in which "inside" and "outside" are not readily visible but known only through non-visual senses, memory and conjecture.
This was perhaps the most emotive and poetic image in the competition. The design was unique, in presentation, attitude towards the site, and in its imagery and palette. This design was subtle and moving. The image of the stark white walls contrasting with the rusting ancient tractor and field grass clearly evoked the idea of the slowly rusting artifact framed in pristine new surroundings, a moment of appropriate nostalgia and thought. This presented a strong and notable commentary on the situation of the existing structure, the site, and the competition brief's goals. The effect could be measured as much in the silent contemplation of those considering it as in their comments.
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Norristown, PA, US
My Role: Principal