Prisoners of interior design.


Last week at the at the 2013 Milan Design Week, the art group Cibic Workshop along with the Comodo organization invited the skilled incarcerated from a high security prison in Italy to present their prototype for Freedom Room.

The Spoleto prison has been working alongside Comodo for the past ten years, and have been training inmates in the graphic arts. Furthermore, the three Italian artists who form the Cibic Workshop, Aldo Cibic, Tommaso Corà, and Marco Tortoioli Ricci, have been holding the design workshops for the prisoners. Together Comodo and Cibic have approached the prisoners to design an affordable and space-saving concept for their Freedom Room project.

The inmates had only a meagre 4 x 2.7 meters to work with, but they perfectly transformed the space into a multipurpose micro- living compartment. The design is incredibly space savvy, even the furniture serves dual if not multiple functions.  Some of the quizzically transformable pieces include the half-closet-half-bed, the table gym and a stool that miraculously turns into an oven. According to the masterminds behind the project, “Living under restraint has led many inmates in Italian prisons, out of necessity, to reinvent the space in their cells as well as the way they use many of the items inside,” Just as the prisoners have to make do with the spoons and forks in their cells, so do the inhabitants of the Freedom Room. The designers also suggest that their module is “A place that is continuously reinvented by those who live inside it” and that the “space necessarily has a flexible dimension that changes according to how it is experienced by each individual”.

The inmates are by no means inexperienced either. They have been cranking out fittings and furnishings for prisons all over Italy while under the instruction of Cibic and Comodo.  While in Milan, the previous director of Spoleto prison, Lucia Castellano said, “The heavy, mortifying restrictions placed on furnishings and accessories… tend to sharpen the wits of the detainees, who will try to make every possible use of the objects they are allowed to keep”. Not only were these cells intended for prisoners, having used first-hand knowledge on the space, but the designers have also hinted at the Freedom Room’s less ominous future as student residences, hostels and affordable housing.

Even though the little matchbox’s microscopic size is off-putting, it is rewarded major points for humanitarian effort. It certainly has not received any attention for being the first of its kind. Other similar designs include the House Arc that was fashioned by Bellomo Architects, the OFT transformable house by Sand & Birch and the Modular Home by KitHAUS. These homes have modern appeal and are riddled with versatility, but they are extremely expensive and are only bought by those with far too much money and no clue on how to spend it, or by those who wish to be left alone on the top of a snowy cliff to be closer to nature.  The Freedom Room, in comparison, is built to accommodate necessity and adaptability rather than lavish style or choice and is significantly cheaper.

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