(This post is part of the project: “The Social Impact of Milan Design Week 2013”).

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Freedom Room is a low cost essential housing module of 4 x 2,7 meters, co-designed and made inside a high security prison in Spoleto, Italy. The project is a collaboration between a group of the prison’s inmates, Cibic Workshop (a design research center) and Comodo (a communication cooperative).

Background:

Comodo started in 2003 education activities, in Spoleto correctional facility, dedicated to inmates professional training in design, graphics and publishing. In 2009 they started to collaborate with Cibic Workshop in order to identify and analyse the opportunities provided by design to improve work inside prisons. Inside Spoleto prison there is a large carpentry that produces furniture for many other correctional facilities. Many of these objects become something else inside the prison cells, even the cell space is often reinvented by the people who live in it.

The idea:

The group worked on the issues of low-cost living, multifunctional objects and adaptable spaces. The result is Freedom Room, a compact and multifunctional room designed to use the space as its best to work, sleep, cook, eat, relax, take a shower… while keeping the original cell’s size (4 x 2.7 meters). “A “module” where a stool becomes an oven, a bed becomes a closet, a can becomes an antenna, a table becomes a gym. Inside the cell, one finds out that space necessarily has a flexible dimension that changes according to how it is experienced by each individual.”

The prototype and book:

The first prototype was exhibited during Milan Design Week 2013 at the Triennale di Milano from April 9 to 14. A book on Freedom Room was released on April 10.

The social impact:

The project can be considered as:

– A possible staring point to face the current crisis in most Italy prisons. According to Lucia Castellano, a former prison director: “the amount of space available to detainees in prisons inevitably revolve around the issue of overcrowding, which makes the prisons of our country unworthy of a civilized society.” The Freedom Room relied on design to generate new ideas and examples for innovation, social cohesion and renovation of prisons’ cells.

– A possible answer to current low cost housing demands;

– A temporary low cost facilities for students;

– A tool for urban renovation in abandoned areas pushing new social dynamics and re-shaping communities and neighbourhoods.

Photos: Alberto Parise

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