Via Creative Time Reports, aerial photographer Christoph Gielen on prisons as the new housing boom:
Since 1980, when the U.S. prison population began to increase dramatically, Americans have been living in an era of mass incarceration, which Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has called one of the “greatest social experiments of our time.” The Spatial Information Design Lab, a think- and action-tank at Columbia University, goes so far as asking, “have prisons and jails become the mass housing of our time?”
I want to illustrate how prison design and architecture do in fact reflect political discourse, economic priorities, cultural sentiments and social insecurities, and how, in turn, these constructed environments also become statements about a society.
The opportunity to visually examine these restricted locations is significant; while some (low-resolution) satellite images of prison complexes are available in the public domain, the public cannot inspect Supermax facilities on the ground. Even journalists may be barred from entering, and almost certainly from taking photos on-site, due to security measures in place since September 11, 2001, which often require background checks and security screening.
I am particularly excited about recent related discussions from within the architectural sector. Specifically Canadian architect Raphael Sperry, the first architect to receive the Justice Initiative Fellow grant by Open Society Foundations, announced his campaign to amend the American Institute of Architects’ Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to “prohibit the design of spaces intended for long-term solitary isolation and execution.”
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