Prisons and Human Rights Violations: What Can Architects Do?

The execution chamber in Indiana where Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was killed in 2001: should architects be involved?

Originally published by the Architectural Review as “Discipline and Punish: the Architecture of Human Rights“, this article by the founder of Architects Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility Raphael Sperry outlines how prison design in the US and elsewhere is violating fundamental human rights, and how some architects have come to be complicit in these designs.

We think of architectural regulations as being there to ensure that buildings are safe for the public. But what if a building’s harm is not caused by unexpected structural failure but by the building performing exactly as intended? Can a building designed to facilitate human rights violations amount to a violation in itself? And what is the responsibility of the architects involved? These are the questions at the centre of the current debate in America around the architectural profession’s involvement in prison design.

Read on for more on the ethics of prison design after the break

Raphael Sperry Speaks About His Quest for Humane Prison Design

Deanna Van Buren’s ‘Mediation Womb’ could form part of an alternative to inhumane prison design. Image Courtesy of FOURM Design Studio

In this interview in Metropolis Magazine, Raphael Sperry elaborates on the goal of his organization Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility to ban members of the AIA from designing execution chambers and certain forms of . He explains why the AIA’s existing charter should make this ban a no-brainer as well as highlights the success and support the campaign has received, even in unexpected places. You can read the full article here.