Is there such a thing as a perfect prison? Is it possible, even in theory, Is there such a thing as a perfect prison? Is it possible, even in theory, to satisfy needs as potentially contrasting as those of inmates, victims and society? Rather than avoiding prison design on moral grounds, Combo Competitions wants to encourage architects and designers to confront the issue, looking for solutions to a problem that is yet to find a correct answer.
1ST PRIZE – (PROTO) PRISON
A central flaw of the American prison model is its complete removal of individuals from society. An isolated prison leads to public stigmatization of inmates, a psychological disconnect from society, and a lack of educational/work opportunities that are necessary to support oneself upon release. Each of these conditions contributes to recidivism by inhibiting the inmates’ successful reintegration into society.
We propose a prison in which inmates are continuously interacting with society. By introducing and integrating a government-run alternative energy research center, we provide opportunities for vocational training, additional education, and direct interaction with various members of society. The unique climate and environment of the site make it ideal for a self-sufficient solar and wind research facility. The inmates’ involvement in the research counters the notion that inmates are a burden on the public while giving them the sense that their work is contributing to a greater good.
Through the inversion of the panopticon prison typology and the replacement of the oppressive central guard tower with a solar thermal collector, we increase the autonomy of the inmates. The formal language of the panopticon was adapted into three programmatic rings — cell block, research, and support — with courtyards that contain recreation and research areas — solar thermal, photovoltaic, and wind turbines.
At the intersection of these rings, the programmatic boundaries are blurred, allowing for controlled interaction between the various users. For example, inmates receive vocational training from researchers in the classrooms and get hands-on experience in the courtyards. The building’s atmosphere of openness and minimal perceived barriers transforms the prison model from one of isolation to one of interaction.
2ND PRIZE – TO THE MOON AND BACK AGAIN
Security has traditionally been the overarching value organizing prison design, but what if many designs employed to maximize security actually ends up lowering it in the wider timeframe? One of the most noticeable effects of incarceration upon the individual is a disconnection between the individual and the society outside of prison. Is it possible to develop a prison design that not only conforms to standards of security under incarceration, but also contributes to security in the long term by facilitating incarcerated individuals’ prosocial connection to society and thereby reducing the risk of recidivism?
We answer this question by proposing a prison design where inmates’ connection to society is the underlying idea. We then chose to highlight five different aspects, each expressing the underlying idea in a different way. The main prison is organized into a village structure in order to mirror society and a recognizable urban pattern. The prison is divided into blocks, blocks into buildings and buildings into floors.
The social space on each prison floor are designed to maintain and encourage daily responsibilities and functions to avoid institutionalization with loss of important habits, skills and behaviour patterns. The floor structure creates smaller communities of up to 20 inmates, making it easier to develop prosocial cultures and norms. We opted for eating areas on each floor instead of a central mess hall, and available kitchen facilities creates the possibility of inmates taking responsibility for meals. The common area includes a patio that make the outdoor more available.
To achieve control, a prison needs barriers. To counter the experience of disconnection we developed several non-obtrusive barriers. Large windows made of ballistic glass connects the inside with the outside. The landscape outside is shaped so that part of the main perimeter fence is hidden from view, creating an illusion of a continuous barrier-less landscape stretching out from the prison. Camera surveillance maintains security at this part of the fence. The indoor patios connects the space inside each building with the sky.
3RD PRIZE – BORDERLESS PRISON
The United States of America are facing a tremendous increase of prisoners resulting overcrowded prisons with poor living conditions as well as high numbers of recidivism. The existing strained and static prison system has to be rethought from scratch. Today, the three principal aspects composing it – the surveillance, educational programs and the follow-up program of each inmate – are not well balanced.
The project proposes to rethink the national carceral system as a whole, where each prison becomes a machine constituting a new dynamic network of prisons with a progressive ideology. This process aims to prioritize the aspects of education and follow-up of the inmate over the aspect of surveillance. The proposal inserts the line, a landscape device, that ties up the program with the context. The line as a founder gesture manages to reveal the specific conditions of the desert. This strong territorial mark achieves to turn the no man’s land into a specific, measurable and tangible space.
The surrounding desert becomes the prison, the distance (10 km) becomes the mean of control and the large surfaces of the desert offer unlimited space for the prison’s activities. In terms of surveillance, a linear gradient control is established, offering a succession of zones with different intensity of security. In addition, the presence of a sprawl territorial system of control towers, acting as landmarks, covers the surrounding environment avoiding any physical barriers. The “borderless” prison in Arizona offers an environment where he re-learns the basics of the social daily life and is rewarded with a significant freedom.
The materialization of the line in the territory mutates from a hard ground surface to an infrastructure or to a building. The role of the line is to provide the necessary foundations and structure in order to let new life and activities to grow in the surroundings. The various patterns generated by the line, such as the agriculture fields, the training grounds or the solar panels installations, are reached by bus and are spread along the line based on the existing territorial conditions. Program such as the cells of the inmates is placed in the most secured zone, in the extremity of the line.
HONORABLE MENTION – CATHARSIS
The stay in prison should not be only the punishment , but also the way to remedy the human being. The first part of the project is studying various situations from the life of prisoner. The first phase is inspirated by a project of Panopticon prison of Jeremy Bentham. It is a round-plan building with and observatory big´s brother tower in the centre. He keeps all prisoners under a perfect control- they live in a separate cells.
The prisoners have to obey the big brother´s eye thanks to the light coming from the big back windows- it´s the princip telling that light is more dangerous than the darkness, because it´s see through. This prison phase is short-term, it takes only few weeks or months, while the prisoner can deep himself to the humility, calm and meditation. The building of a prisons is adapted to a desert´s contidion-it has thick walls, natural ventilation trhough the atrium´s window(the chimney effect).
From the phase of submersion the prisoner comes to the phase, when he´s kept under the authority by working or another activity. The prison has carefuly chosen the place for each of the prisoners according his capabilities and skills, but in the same time he is attached in the place where he works, his movement ability is limited. It´s the longest phase forming the prisoner- he is situated in the surroundings which has a positive moral influence to him. The phase of submission is purrificating thanks to his colleagues which are not criminals (not even a one).
The place can be anywhere worldwide- it has to correspond with the cultural or spiritual confidence of the prisoner. In such a place he is respected as a full-value person, but obeying the supervisor of the workplace. He can work as a wood-cutter, mason, take care of the poor, orphans, ill. He can be a laic monk in th emonastery or help in the pogey. In the Sibir, Mongolia, Chile, Morroco. The prison itself de facto doesn´t exist; they actually don´t have a place to be attached with.
HONORABLE MENTION – PLUG-IN PRISON
Plug-in Prison is an architecture that utilises a combination of VR technology and controlled environments removing inmates from the reality of the physical world.
Inmates serve their sentence in a virtual society where challenges can be monitored and assessed, free from the stigmas of the real world.
Unprecedented, this system allows for an intimate understanding of an inmate’s physical and mental state.
Immersed in a simulated society the inmate’s environment is continuously tailored for rehabilitation – providing a prison programme that directly trials recidivism throughout incarceration.
Source and images Cortesy of Combo Competions.