Will Alsop has agreed to take on a new project that’s likely to be as controversial as it is visionary. In Leicestershire, England, the esteemed architect will meet this autumn with long-term prisoners at Her Majesty’s Prison Gartee to devise a new, more forward-thinking concept of incarceration. Alsop was enlisted by a company called Rideout: Creative Arts for Rehabilitation to conceptualize and design a “creative prison” that privileges rehabilitation over punishment, with the inmates’ viewpoints in mind.
The project is meant to promote education and the arts within the prison system, elements of rehabilitation that are generally relegated to last priority. All sides hope to spark public debate about what exactly a prison should be and how the treatment of prisoners affects the greater success of society. Alsop says, “Creative cities, where you create cities where people feel engaged and involved, are actually economically and socially more successful. Why should prisons be any different? They are small towns in effect.”