Toggle Quick Contact Bar

Art Prison‬ by Jamie Thomson

LOCATION:  ‪Newcastle, Australia

The Art Prison uses architecture to evaluate the contemporary notion of effective punishment and rehabilitation. Academic enquiry of the city footprint showed the polarized distinction between prison placement and central business district interactions. Traditionally, prisons are located on the industrial outskirts and city peripheries which exploit the notion of separation of the city footprint. To investigate effective ways of rehabilitation, the project challenged some of these architectural norms; firstly by relocating the place of detainment into the city centre.

The true ethical crux of this project remained in one simple question; how can a prisoner be effectively rehabilitated after committing a crime? Early concepts of discipline and punishment, as stated by Michael Foucault, suggests physical pain inflicted by a weapon is a reasonable means of punishment. Later, physical labour becomes more appropriate: apparatus and machinery which is used for labour ‐ such as the crank and cog ‐ entirely remove any sense of reward primarily due to the architectural configuration of the prison. An architecture which monumentalises physical segregation and labour prevents the individual from realising their collective worth. Again, the Art Prison project involved challenging the origins, and re‐interpreting them with a different outcome.

The outcome is a prison building typology located in an urban environment ‐ the heart of Newcastle’s CBD ‐ which not only detains criminal offenders, but simultaneously engages public interaction through open outdoor plazas and a public art gallery. Essentially, the architecture offers a new way of thinking about rehabilitation. It is designed to harness and evoke the artistic capability of men, whilst providing the resources necessary to create exhibition-worthy art pieces. In prison, time becomes a commodity which this design intends to exploit in the efforts to gain a cultural product. In the case of the Art Prison, the product is art, not mass-produced bus-seats or school desks or any other monotonous labour-induced item.