Locked Out

Vesper No. 4


« C’est dans les prisons que l’idée de liberté prend le plus de force et peut-être ceux qui enferment les autres dedans risquent-ils de s’enfermer dehors. »

J. Cocteau, L’Impromptu du Palais-Royal



Umberto Napolitano

Silvia Lista




VESPER No. 4, Spring/Summer 2021
"Exiles and Exoduses"

The project of the Ideal City of Chaux, by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, is one of the first examples of the tendency, common in the 19th century, to move prisons away from urban centres. Location aside, the relationship between prisons and context can be synthesised by the image of the insurmountable limit. The prison is a wall, a fence enclosing an other place, where freedom and rights are no longer the same.

Dostoevsky thought that the civility of a nation could be measured by the condition of its prisons. Once again, as Aldo Rossi stated, ‘architecture clearly represents only one aspect of a more complex reality, of a larger structure; but at the same time, as the ultimate verifiable fact of this reality, it constitutes the most concrete possible position from which to address the problem’.

Architecture is indeed the mirror of a society. When it faces prisons, this mirror shows us the image of extreme situations: overcrowding, punitive law, isolation, radicalisation, relapses and rehabilitation hardships. The nature of these problems is mainly political and social, but architecture can take part in the debate and make them its own, thus contributing to the improvement of the quality of life in prisons.

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