1A Architecture and Carceral Space

Parallel Session 1A (Day 1 11.00-12.00) 


Architecture and Carceral Space

Peter Phillips (University of Cardiff) :A Place out of Time: the Prison Chapel as Time Capsule

The time capsule, whether individually or socially constructed, is a metonym of the values and practices of its time. In looking to an unforeseeable and therefore unknown future it becomes almost instantaneously a relic, a selective representation of a “then” viewed through the lens of a “now”. In its concealment it becomes  invisible, forgotten, only to be discovered later as a curiosity, a slice of “what was”, somehow absorbed into “what is”.  My paper argues that the prison chapel is just such a relic, whose early function and purpose have become increasingly unintelligible. I argue, however, that, being largely divested of its original manifest function it has been partly reinvested with functions and practices which reflect more individualised spiritualities. I argue further that, as well as being a tangible physical entity, the chapel is equally located as a construct by all the actors and agencies in the prison and is reflexively associated with “the” chaplain or a chaplain.  I echo Knott’s distinction between politics and poetics in her positioning articles (2008, 2010); while I focus more on the latter, I acknowledge multiple contestations of the chapel as sacred and/or sacralised space, rather as Gilliat-Ray (2005) found in the Millennium Dome. This paper attempts to theorise one of the oldest component spaces in prisons to augment research on, for example, reception areas (Bradshaw et al, 1972) visiting rooms (Moran, 2011) and immigration detention centres (McGregor, 2012). The paper derives from my ethnographic research around prison chaplains in thirty-two prisons in England and Wales; it spotlights data from five of these as well as a semiotic visual analysis of one prison chapel. There is a strong reflexive element since I am embodied both as researcher and practitioner.

Elisabeth Fransson (KRUS) : The Lunch Table. Prison architecture, action-forces and the young imprisoned body

What do a lunch table, a battle and a mirror have to do with prison architecture and the young imprisoned body? Through a close reading of three different events, the article analyses action-forces in play in the Youth Units in Norway. Action-forces spotlight the power and energies that are produced in meetings between objects, people and subsequent discourses. The article draws the attention to how architecture becomes through meetings between people, things and the way people talk. All affecting the young imprisoned body. The lunch table, the battle and the mirror are all events played out in various spaces within the prisons illustrating various connections between prison architecture, action forces and the imprisoned young body. The article is an input to methodological and analytical reflections regarding prison architecture illustrated through examples from an ongoing study of the Youth Units in Norway.


Sabrina Puddu : California Conservation Camps. Landscape, territory and architectural discipline.

Interspersed within a most variegate collection of landscapes in California stands a vast and complex archipelago of correctional institutions. Besides 37 medium and high security walled-prisons, it counts 44 Conservation Camps that are settlements for “correction and rehabilitation” characterized by a more permissive life-style. Here about 4,000 inmates are employed both as fire-fighters responding to emergencies such as fires, floods, earthquakes and tornados, and as manual laborers at the service of local public agencies. The camps are territorial and ecological garrisons of national power whose origins can be traced back to the legacy of the New Deal and its ideology of ruralization and de-urbanization. The geographical scale of the Conservation Camps Program is thus essential for understanding the phenomenon in relation to the formation of the rural condition and environmental awareness of modern California. Yet, location strategies are not enough to grasp the phenomenon in its more latent intentions. Such intentions become apparent only when the internal architectural rationale of the single camp is also explored. A taxonomic approach to the camps and their main development stages between the 1940s and today unveils such rationale. It also challenges the assumption shared by most scholars (and by the common opinion of prison staff) that camps are simple, unplanned settlements displaying a non-rational spatial arrangement. Whereas the buildings look like innocuous cottages scattered throughout the landscape and their friendly and bucolic character destabilizes the certainties with which architecture exerts its disciplinary power in carceral environments, a closer comparative analysis of the 44 camp layouts reveals that there is much more design intentionality than the eye can plainly discern. Once stripped off of any purely architectural quality or embellishment — not last the abdication of the perimeter wall, the sine qua non condition of a prison — the camp’s rationale lies completely in its plan layout.I will be presenting field research on the Conservation Camps that I conducted between 2014 and 2015, combining direct observation, study of interdisciplinary literature sources, and an original analysis made through drawings.