Modern Penitentiary/Prison/Jail Concept

Dec 1 '13 13 Last Comment
Dec 1, 13 3:48 am

We were given a design problem which is a prison. It has to be modern and it is situated in an islet.

I need concepts or ideas for designing this. Please help!


Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Dec 1, 13 11:32 am

Some firsthand experience will be a big help. Get yourself locked up.

t a m m u z
Dec 1, 13 12:23 pm

Have you studied the site? Do you know which is your optimum location for the project (I would imagine this would be even more significant for security purposes)? Have you read any literature on the security and prisoner well being issues? precedent studies? I think the organization of spaces would be complex and requires vigilance on your part on a few fronts.

t a m m u z
Dec 1, 13 12:39 pm

I had a teacher who had brought up prisons, penitentiary architecture as an object of moral concern irrespective of design intent -that is, the very premise was morally questionable. She herself said she would not assign such a brief to her students. So, you see, its not a totally uncontroversial issue and you'll need to make it clear to yourself, pursuant to accepting the brief, how do you strike a balance between the retributionary (if this is how you define that aspect - others speak of a prohibitive aspect) and the well being of prisoners. Do the spaces encourage them to be a community or is it 'divide and conquer'? Do you afford them with the beautiful views or do you punish them by restricting these views...or do you play carrot and stick? Usually, these are not an architect's decision per se but result from the clients requisites but im guessing you have a carte blanche.

Dec 1, 13 12:59 pm

I don't know if the site is shown on the picture or not, but if it is I would take a look at Alcatraz and how it was situated on the site and how were corridors designed and use that as a  general concept with corrections and changes of course. If it is not I would think of this as a mini world for only the occupants (prisoners) will know this world. I would want skylights in  certain meeting areas in some corridors I want window walls showing nature in a courtyard incorporating nature into design is one of the things that I think is important in design. Lastly the concept stage is where the client is most involved what does the client  want other than it being modern. Marble floors, nice furniture in certain offices and areas, well this is my two cents.

Dec 1, 13 8:59 pm

The architect who gave this design problem (our teacher) actually work as a designer, not an architect. So it's really difficult on my part to design a prisoner that is visually appealing just to meet his standards in aesthetics even if what really required is to make the prisoners deserve punishment. He (our teacher) doesn't actually look on planning and other stuffs, he's more intrigued on the idea and the concept behind the design of the building. So basically he's a good designer but an idiot teacher. But just to pass my subject, I want to go with what he wants, because he will give me a failing grade if the aesthetics is not good enough for him.

Dec 1, 13 9:25 pm

Look up photos of the French prison ruins off New Guinea. And view the Steve McQueen movie Papillon. Be sure and include a picturesque courtyard for the executions in your plans! Or perhaps a virtual tour of Auschwitz and imagine how the Nazis would have "done" the island meme. Never just refuse the assignment; that is so judgmental on your part.

t a m m u z
Dec 2, 13 1:11 am

Hebrews 13:3

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

Isn't this quite a beautiful and cruel line? A stark winter to a colourful autumn. You read altruism until "ill-treated" and you get to the last phrase and are turned inside out, imprisoned in corporeal you, demonized by you.  It is not your freedom that you partake with prisoners, it is their imprisonment they partake with you. And so the awakening, the absolution is not theirs through you but yours through them. The pain of the other - therefore the other- is your baptism; and thus the world is rendered an exchange of pain and suffering for the price of absolution- extrovert and introvert. Not one without the other - and how can they not but form a unified geometry, by one seen convexly and by the other concavely.  Can you see the extravagant paradox?  You profit from other's pain and yet equally you are nothing but someone else's pain. Everything serves you and yet you are not there to be served. Egomania and complete effacement. 

t a m m u z
Dec 2, 13 1:20 am

how about a prison in the form of a hall-of-mirrors? 

multiply my misery a hundred thousand fold and let me absolve my brethren from their's as i disappear into a hundred thousand mocking shards of my image, decorporealized, freed from the burden of me. 

won and done williams
Dec 2, 13 10:53 am

It's an island. Do you actually need a building? What you need are sharks.

Dec 2, 13 11:05 am

With frickin' lasers attached to their heads.

Dec 2, 13 11:39 am

given all the eletronic surveillance today, are prison walls even needed?  seems authorty woud have plenty of other option for limiting ones freedoms & rights.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Dec 2, 13 11:44 am

Give them minumum wage jobs at Walmart and McD's, oh wait, that's probably why they went criminal to begin with ...

Dec 2, 13 12:35 pm

We need to know the nationality behind the prison, though. The Chinese like to execute prisoners en masse so they can harvest the body parts all together. You need more medical facilities if the prison is run by our Chinese friends. in the US the real criminals are in the White House and Department of Justice; the prisons will be for political prisoners. Best to go long interrogation rooms, isolation cells, and water-boarding venues. (The Devil's Island prison is on an island that is part of French Guiana, not New Guinea. My bad.)

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