Thank you for your continued readership over the past year. It is with great excitement that we announce the next phase in the evolution of So|Aware Architecture — that is, the rebranding and launch as The Commonist Magazine. Please check us out and submit your personal articles or artwork at commonistmag.com
The US prison system has failed to see advancements throughout the past century and desperately requires innovation and re-imagination. While recent literature begins to question the sociological impact of prisons, there has been little exploration of the physical environments in which inmates are housed.
499.SUMMIT is the outcome of a critical look into these static institutions. It proposed to challenges all preconceived notions of the word “prison”, and re-imagines the high-rise as an urban penitentiary. The massing consists of three towers in the shape of an arch. The inherent linear and formal qualities of the ‘arch’ allowed for the overall circulatory concept: Up, over, down. Each arch has three primary phases, Incarceration (up), Transformation (over), and Integration (down). The arches begin isolated during the incarceration phase and merge together both physically and programmatically during the integration phase. As the inmates graduate through the facility, they are being exposed to an increasing degree of social interaction, to make the transition back into society as soft as possible. To catalyst this process, public program and residential housing are introduced in the integration phase downwards.
Norway’s Ministry of Justice invited Erik Møller Architects to compete for the design of Halden Fengsel Prison. The prison is located in Halden, in Southern Norway. It was designed to house 250 prisoners which, unlike American prisons, would be a mixture of men and women.
The design is based on the hard and soft interactions in the prisoners’ rehabilitation process. Sited in a hilly wooded area, the prison is generally divided into two areas – housing development, located in the most hilly area, and administration and employment areas located in a lower area with buildings organized more specifically around the central large air courtyard and sports court. Halden prison also has a mural by Norwegian street artist Dolk, which is reportedly worth $1 million.
So is this massive investment in architecture and design worth it for Norway’s most hardened criminals, including murderers and rapists?
A Time Magazine article reports that, although recidivism rates are calculated differently between countries, only 20% of Norway’s prisoners end up back in jail within 2 years (compared to 50%–60% in the UK and US).
by Harry Weese
The Metropolitan Correctional Center, or MCC, is a federal jail right in the middle of downtown Chicago. It’s a triangle-shaped skyscraper, 27 stories, with tall, super-narrow, irregularly-spaced windows up and down each wall. The outside walls look like old computer punchcards. As odd as it looks, each of these striking details serve a purpose. The architect, Harry Weese, made bold innovations that were solutions to practical problems. The triangular shape creates easy sight-lines for the guards inside. The windows are narrow (5 inches) to prevent escapes (without requiring bars), but beveled out, to funnel natural light inside. The interior design was very thoughtfully considered as well. As stunning as it is, the building can also be a little hard to see from up close.
Producer/reporter Dan Weissmann worked nearby for years and rarely looked up at it. This is apparently by design, as well. The triangular shape keeps the building pushed back from the street, there’s a tall hedge between the sidewalk and the plaza in front of the jail, and the El train blocks much of the view of the floors above. But recently Dan kind of became obsessed with the MCC and discovered that Harry Weese’s groundbreaking design may still gain admirers from the throngs of people that pass it on the street, but for the 681 temporary residents inside, it may not be living up to Weese’s grand vision.
Designing for Adaptable Futures, the first competition hosted by Adaptable Futures (AF), recently announced their award recipients. The competition was open to students globally. AF requested that submissions illustrate the lifespan of the proposal (whether product, building or urban intervention) and how it would evolve over time – an hour, day, year, decade, or perhaps a century.
After receiving submissions from 26 countries, thirty projects were shortlisted the international team of judges then selected three winning submissions (a joint first place and a third place) along with five submissions deserving honorable mention.
Enterprise is now accepting applications to become an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow beginning in 2013. Take advantage of the recently extended application deadline, which is now August 8, 2012. Click here to see how you can apply.
About the Fellowship:
The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship offers a select few of the nation’s finest, early career architects the opportunity for first-hand training and experience in sustainable community design work. The Fellowship partners these emerging talents with local community development organizations for three years. Under the program’s innovative structure, fellows work in the community, forging local ties and expanding the capacity of their host organizations to create sustainable, affordable housing for people of low-income in underserved communities.
Imagination Playground is a breakthrough playspace concept designed pro-bono by David Rockwell to encourage child-directed, unstructured free play. With a focus on loose parts, Imagination Playground offers a changing array of elements that allows children to constantly reconfigure their environment and to design their own course of play.
After five years of research, development, focus groups and testing, the flagship Imagination Playground Park at Burling Slip opened in July 2010, realized by Rockwell Group in collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.Giant foam blocks, mats, wagons, fabric and crates overflow with creative potential for children to play, dream, build and explore endless possibilities.
Further reading via The Guardian: Sense of adventure: what happened to playgrounds that give children space?
TH!NK: Art+Architecture Camp - an Open Call to All Students and Graduates of Architecture, the Arts and Engineering
TH!NK is designed as an art+architecture camp within the sub-Saharan landscape. This camp is intended to bring together participants from diverse cultures to explore the relationship between art and architecture to generate a modern structure using sustainable materials from the local environment such as earth, straw, stone, wood, and recycled/reused materials. The goal is to adapt vernacular construction techniques and materials, such as cob, natural plaster, grass thatching and vaulted roof to create a workshop/ learning center for the local community. This project offers a unique opportunity for architects and builders to collaborate with artists in the design-build process, exchange innovative ideas towards realization of the Sang Land Art Museum designed by Arunima Chatterjee.
So, will you be going??
To apply e-mail your CV or resume, the date you are applying and your website or sample work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more in the program PDF here.
by Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow David Pound with Joe Addo
As part of the 20 Centers for 2010 Campaign, Architecture for Humanity partnered with the FIFA World Cup Organization and Play Soccer Ghana to design and build the Football for Hop Center. The program included spaces for public health, education and football while addressing local social challenges in disadvantaged areas as well as improving education and health services for young people. The Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha is the first of the 20 Football for Hope Centres in Africa.
The design incorporates passive solar principles and mixed building material palette of indigenous, renewable and reclaimed components. Because of the efficiency of the design, there is no need for cooling systems and minimized running costs for electric and water. The building also uses reclaimed scaffolding and donated shipping containers for the structural elements with natural and local materials such as bamboo and mud blocks.
Related post: Safmarine Container Project – Sports Center #1
In 2007 the Design Build Bluff students unanimously voted to build their next house for Dora and Baxter Benally. The house was designed around the central hearth, which in Baxter’s Navajo culture, is traditionally an exterior fire pit for families and community members to gather around. Outward from the hearth, students drew lines in the direction of each of the four sacred mountains from the Navajo Creation Story. From these lines sprung the parapet walls, with the pitch of the roof wrapping around.
Students settled on the readily available and traditional material of hand-made adobe bricks, wrapped in donated birch-veneered plywood for the interior walls. The team salvaged scrap metal pipes from local construction sites to use as structural supports and applied sealant to the concrete foundation floors, leaving them bare.
In this building every material has a back-story – raw cork found in a local elementary school dumpster covers the ceilings, the exterior sheathing is un-galvanized corrugated metal, found at the local gravel pit and pounded flat to conform to the building’s round shape, rusted mesh found at the same pit serves as soffit material. Finally, discarded rubber tires, collected from the land on the Reservation, form a courtyard that greets visitors at the front of the home and the hearth itself was constructed from a giant inverted funnel salvaged from, again, the local gravel pit.