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prison (re)form

prison (re)form

1st Prize - Combo Competitions Prison Puzzle

AIA Fort Worth Student Merit Award

Exhibited at 2016 Texas Student Biennial

Team | Zach Walters

In addition to systematic flaws in sentencing, mass incarceration, privatization of prisons, and other aspects of the criminal justice system, the architecture of prisons is fundamentally flawed. 

Combo Competitions asked designers to address the high rates of recidivism – that a large number of released prisoners relapse into crime and soon end up behind bars again.

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, psychological disconnect from society, and a lack of educational/work opportunities  necessary to support oneself upon release. This contributes to recidivism by inhibiting the inmates’ successful reintegration into society.

In the (Re)Formed Prison, inmates constantly interact with society. The integration of an alternative energy research center, which takes advantage of the prison’s location in the northern Arizona desert, provides opportunities for vocational training, additional education, and direct interaction with society. Also, the inmates’ involvement in the research helps counteract the public’s stigma against inmates.

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.

Jury Comments - 

"(proto) Prison manages to tackle two of the United States’ greatest challenges: incarceration and sustainable energy production. The two very disparate subjects are poetically entwined, moving towards something grander than the sum of its parts. By programmatically blurring the boundaries between prisoners and outside society – and facilitating interaction – the proposal reduces the risk of recidivism while at the same time furthering important research. Conceptually, the inverted panopticon along with the three programmatic rings (cell blocks, research and support) convinces and responds well to the challenges and opportunities offered by the site. The scheme is captivating, not only because of its technical creativity, but also because of the way it addresses the brief with both clarity and ingenuity. The introduction of an alternative energy research facility, directly run in conjunction with the prison, transforms the conventional program of the prison into one that is more related to education, research and innovation. Held together by a straightforward and lucid presentation, (proto) Prison is a well-deserving winner."

See more on Archdaily or Combo Competitions' website

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