By Beth Carter
Posting in Architecture
A graduate architecture student challenges the way we think about prisons, both in design and program.
Design has been used to challenge the current concept of a prison before. In fact, design has separated the prisons that are successful from the ones that aren't. A new concept from Penn graduate architecture student Greg Knobloch seeks to challenge preconceived notions of what it is to build a prison.
A collaborative project, 499.summit proposes a simple design concept: a prison built for an urban environment.
The structural design contains three towers in the shape of an arch. The arches converge to form Knobloch's circulatory concept. Within the arches there three phases: incarceration (up), transformation (over), and integration (down). They are isolated at the bottom during the incarceration phase and merge together during the integration phase.
Just the like arches, the inmates are more secluded during this incarceration phase, and when the integration phase happens, the arches merge in their program as well as in their structure.
Public program as well as residential housing units are introduced in the downward side of the integration phase. In other words, the inmate moves throughout the building according to their behavior. The design imagines the inmates graduating through the facility, with inmates slowly exposed to more social interaction in hopes of a smoother reintegration into society.
Would you want one of these in your town? Even if you don't, it is interesting to think about our ideas of what a prison is supposed to look like, and what design can do to change and better our current systems.
More photos of the renderings:
Images: Greg Knobloch
Apr 10, 2012
It seems like something more out of a movie than anything. I do like the creative design and the seclusion idea.
Is there a proposal to construct an urban prison, in Pennsylvania or elsewhere? There's good reasons to build urban jails (relatively short term incarceration) that don't apply to prisons (relatively long term incarceration)? Wouldn't it be more economical to construct a conventional building partitioned into multiple areas than to have a separate tower for each area?
Yes, there are some hardened criminals that deserve to be punished, but I find it disconcerting how hateful the comments on this list have become. Is life in America so tough that we hate on the people whose stories we don't know? If people are really desperate enough to commit crimes, so that they can have healthcare and three meals a day, then America has much bigger problems than merely figuring out how to help people re-enter society. Sharing others' concerns, I can't imagine any city allowing that hideous building to be built in a downtown area. I love the design concept of stages back to civilian life, but wonder why Greg disregarded aesthetics. Keep finding interesting stories, Beth!
Let's get tough! Why are the prisons so crowded in the first place? It's because it is a "more or less" safe place for many people to live. Just do something bad, be convicted and have a place to live. Your food, lodging, medical care, social clubs, sex, educational opportunities are all available to you. Guess what??? YOU don't have to pay for it!!! The rest of society pays for it. Up the "you know what"! PRISONS SHOULD BE A PLACE THAT YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE IN. BE A GOOD CITIZEN AND YOU WILL NOT GO TO PRISON. GET THE CHAIN GANGS BACK TO WORK. MAKE LICENSE PLATES. BE HUMAN GUINEA PIGS FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH. MOST CRIMINALS ARE BEYOND HELP. KEEP THEM LOCKED UP. END PAROLE! PUT UP GALLOWS AT THE CROSSROADS AND LET THE GOOD PEOPLE SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CRIMINALS. HAVE PUBLIC CASTRATIONS FOR FOR SEX OFFENDERS!
Primarily I second what 'i8thecat4' said. Every word of it. The pictures shown are simply stupid. Prisoners, especially 'hardened' or repeat offenders don't deserve 1/10th of what they already get, much less such an artistic and unrealistic building. This whole topic is a pet-peeve of mine, so I'll end the rant before it begins.
You link to an atricle on some of the worst prison designs and that article states, regarding the Oklahoma County Detention Center in Oklahoma City, "One of the chief issues is the fact that the facility is 13 stories in height, which makes it very difficult and labor-intensive to move inmates around the building, since they need to rely on series of elevators." This concept building has the same issue and no outdoor areas for inmates... Granted I think we should bring back chain gangs and state that criminals serving time have zero human rights and that hard time is very difficult and labor intensive and abusive as a deterrant to crime... We work them at least 5 days a week and they have the option to either work on the weekends or they can take classes that teach them basic math, literacy, and trades. They wouldn't have time to do drugs, make shives, get in fights, form gangs, etc. They would be exhausted, well behaved, or they would have the snot kicked out of them and they would learn to be well behaved... Upon release they would be skilled and educated... They would also have zero desire to go back.
Yes there are hardened and evil prisoners, but not everyone in prison is evil. In fact, there are a lot of them in prison that shouldn't be, like the ones that got caught with a joint in their possession, in their own home. Oh yeah, that's a real good reason to send someone to prison, NOT! And why are there so many hardened criminals in the penal system now? Because once you go to prison, no matter what crime you committed, you now have that big X on your back, and no one wants to hire someone with the big X. So here they are, newly released from prison, no job, no place to stay, not even the hope of getting a job, at least one that will put food on the table. So a lot of them have no other choice but to go back to crime to make a living. It's either that or starve to death in an alley somewhere..... Another reason for such hardened criminals is also the environment they're thrown into. Prison is a very evil and violent place, you either become hardened or you perish. Because of prisoner rights groups, the Correctional Officers have very little leeway to deal with them. Basically their bad behavior is protected under the prison laws... (Ex-Correctional Officer)
They have tried 3 strikes, they have put people on death row, they have put them on chain gangs, in pink underwear, in tents. The sentences have gotten longer, the possibility of parole is less. It has not lessened the number people re-offending, or the numbers of people going to jail. Mandatory sentencing has not worked. Yet in other countries they have fewer prisoners per population than the U.S. and they have fewer people returning. They treat them with less drastic measures, give them better food, treat them like human beings, give them an education, therapy and keep them busy. So that when they do get released they are not angry, violent, hopeless, and have a place to live, and are ready for employment.
The inmates are not one size fits all, some are extremely violent, others have almost no education, many have psychological problems and should not even be in a prison. I know of some for them to go out and work would be impossible medically. Some have histories of seizures, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Some of them are passive and the reason they are in there the one who said wait here robbed the bank and they got caught.
In Massachusetts the average time spent in prison has gone down while the number of repeat offenders has gone up. We have felons who have committed multiple murders between prison terms that were shortened by parole boards of bleeding hearts who think we are too tough on crime. Willie Horton, whose murderous crime spree was committed after walking away from a weekend release program single handedly destroyed Mike Dukakis bid for the White House, committed his first murder less than 10 miles from where I sit. After brutally killing Joe Fornier, a teen working at his familys gas station whom I knew, Horton was put on a weekend furlough program by a bunch of bleeding heart liberals after serving just 12 years of a life term. He walked away the first weekend he was released and murdered a couple in Maryland. We recently had a very similar sad story that ended with the death of a Woburn cop the day after Christmas in 2010 at the hands of a paroled murderer. Some people cannot be reformed. Thankfully a judge in Maryland refused to turn over Horton to Massachusetts. He is still rotting in a Maryland jail today. The last act of the cop killed in 2010 was to shoot and kill his murderer before he died of blood loss from his wounds.