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Prisoners Help Design Very Small Spaces
April 22, 2013
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Room_Designed_by_Prisoners.jpg
Photo: Cibic Workshop

These inmates aren't running the asylum - but they are helping to design a room.

At a recent presentation in Milan, Italian designers Aldo Cibic, Tommaso Corà Marco, and Tortoioli Ricci (they work together as Cibic Workshop) unveiled their Freedom Room project, a micro-housing module that was partly designed by prison inmates.

Since 2003, the designers have been working with inmates at a prison in Spoleto, a city in central Italy not far from Rome.

It's a high-security facility with a woodworking shop where inmates manufacture furnishings for other prisons in Italy, and the design firm has helped train prisoners in design, graphics, and publishing.

In 2009, Cibic started working with inmates on ideas around 'low cost living', and creating multifunctional spaces. The Freedom Room is the result of those workshops - a single space that incorporates some of the space-saving ideas generated by inmates.

It's a very small space - it measures 4 x 2.7 metres (12 x 8 feet) - but it makes the most of what's there, with storage packed into every available spot and a clear purpose for every flat surface.

Room_Designed_by_Prisoners2.jpg
Photo: Cibic Workshop

As for why the Cibic designers decided to consult inmates, the former director of the Spoleto prison Lucia Castellano tells Gizmodo that prisoners often get creative with the limited objects and space they live with: "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."

The design team hopes that the project could serve as a model for hostels and social housing units.

As for instituting the design in actual prison cells, that won't happen anytime soon - but it's not out of the question, according to Castellano.

Room_Designed_by_Prisoners3.jpg
Photo: Cibic Workshop

He says "I sincerely hope that Prison Administrations will consider...adopt[ing] this project to promote a 'culture' of prison life which... may be determined to a certain extent by the inmates themselves."

One other place where these space-saving tips might be useful? Canada's smallest condos, located in Surrey, BC.

A new condo development there, Balance, features a show home of only 300 square feet, including a very small balcony. The cheapest unit in the building starts at $110,000.

Surrey_Condo.jpg
Photo: via the Vancouver Observer

It's a really small space, which may not appeal to everyone. But the idea behind the Balance condo development is to offer an affordable, if snug, way into the property market: "If you are making $17 an hour and your dream is to buy a new home, I'm sorry, but you can't," Charan Sethi, president of the development company, told the Vancouver Observer.

Balance is aimed at lower income buyers: "The idea is to try and see if we can fulfill that dream of yours and give you a very basic home first, and from there you can flourish and do the next one."

Via Gizmodo

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