Architecture After Incarceration

Bachelor of Architectural Design
Semester 1, 2021

Studio leader(s)

  • Mark Romei

The most difficult and urgent challenge today is that of creatively exploring new terrains of justice, where the prison no longer exists.

Angela Y. Davis

In a context of rapidly expanding prison systems - coupled with new models of privatization, exceedingly high rates of Indigenous incarceration, and an expansion of the violent spatial logics of borders and their spaces of indefinite detention, this studio asks what is architectures complicity within these structures, as well as what is the potential to transgress such forms and carve out new societal trajectories?

Investigating the origins and evolutions of the form of the prison as present in the architecture and archaeology of Australia’s colonial history and present, this studio proposes to open a space where students can think critically about the histories and contemporary forms of carceral structures within society, as well as to speculate upon their place within possible future societies.

Engaging with these issues, a series of collective discussion around works of key thinkers such as Angela Y. Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Michel Foucault, Leopold Lambert and Jackie Wang will introduce key concepts and broad discussions around the contemporary role of carceral structures.

Students will then generate a series of questions by collectively analysing a series of sites and spaces of incarceration, which will aid the development of architectural responses. Students will be asked to document the spatial, political, and power dimensions present within such structures, and to find a space to respond to these architectures, either within the site or elsewhere.

The studio will invite students to critically and creatively imagine how to transgress such current forms, either through modes of protest or reconfiguration. Students will not be asked to design alternative spaces of incarceration. Rather, they will be invited to question, pose, and imagine possible pre-conditions which would make the prison redundant as an architectural typology used to mediate social issues and contain bodies. Forms of decriminalization, community justice, and preventative measures such as secure housing, healthcare, expanded education and community autonomy will be discussed and examined as possible strategies to reduce incarceration, while also opening a space for new concepts to emerge which have the ability to challenge the inevitability of the prison as a dominant form of justice in society.