Under Control

Jan Kristek


In prison, people “eat, sleep, work, study, play, swim, go to the doctor and visit their families. They also speak, negotiate, listen, learn, and express their opinions; they have relationships, hate and love. In prison, people watch, think, read and listen to music, they have doubts and they find inspiration, they are concerned and alarmed, excited, depressed, hopeful; they cry and they laugh,” as Roger Paez, author of Mas d’Enric prison in Tarragona (see pages 28–31) writes in his book Critical Prison Design. Prison is a microcosm, a miniature unto itself. It is an island or a ship at sea inhabited by society that has to develop its own rules due to its isolation… and yet it peculiarly mirrors the society “on the other side”. Prison is a heterotopia.

If we search for differences, we may come to the conclusion that prison represents a marginal type of space. But if we are concentrating on similarities we may see it as a paradigm of places where architecture is mobilized with the aim to capture, regulate, and possibly reform what the majority of the population considers to be an unacceptable “anomaly” in relation to the norm. The most obvious are young offenders’ institutions, mental institutions as well as public spaces with a specific disciplining mechanism, and from a certain perspective also the so-called excluded areas. The opening article in this issue ends with Rem Koolhaas’ statement from the 1990’ that ideology beats even the most radical architecture.

What lessons can we, as architects, learn today from the topic of “control and surveillance”, that is what you will find out on the following pages thanks to helpfulness and endeavor of the contributors and enthusiasm of the editors. I would like to thank them all.

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