The Creative Prison

19 January - 16 February 2007

Placing the design of prison buildings in the hands of the staff and inmates themselves. That was the revolutionary approach to the design of future prisons that was examined in an exhibition at the Architecture Foundation's Yard Gallery that wanted to debate and challenge attitudes to current prisoner rehabilitation. Developed by architect Will Alsop, artists Shona Illingworth and Jon Ford, and led by the radical arts organisation Rideout (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation), the collaboration examined how the design of prisons informs their effectiveness. The project involved a unique collaboration with prison staff and with inmates serving life sentences at HMP Gartree, Leicestershire.

HMP Paterson, a concept prison, was the result of this collaboration. The architectural design had inmates living in blocks of twelve, each with a communal kitchen, common room and an enclosed garden. Around the perimeter of the prison was a wall that houses many of its essential elements. The design highlighted ways that architecture could improve safety, increase social interaction and house training and education activity.   

Other exhibition elements included a film by squint/opera showing the imagined interior of the prison, sculptures by prisoners on themes of rehabilitation and a video installation by Shona Illingworth contemplating and contrasting current prison conditions.

Will Alsop said:
"Creative cities where people feel engaged and involved are economically and socially more successful. Why should prisons be any different? Creative Prision is a positive attempt to look at things in a diferent way."

The Creative Prison recognises that the majority of our prisions were built for an earlier idea of criminal justice in which punishment was everything.

Saul Hewish of Rideout said:
"Working within prisons on our arts based projects, Rideout was constantly coming up against the problem of space - a lack of it, and poor design.  We wanted to talk to prison staff and prisoners about what a different kind of prison might look like. We were delighted that Will Alsop collaborated with us on this exploration, allowing a marriage of architectural expertise with the real-life experiences of the participants." 


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