The spatial invervention "Outside in Prison" has at its core the central thesis that there is a right to
architecture for everybody.
Problematizing the production of space, the question is at what point such a process begins. In this case
it begins with the vexed issue of why there are prisons in the first place, what type of construction public
money is being spent on, and if architects should enter into working "for" prisons. Also, questions come
into play as to who prepares the brief for such a project and how prisoners´ rights to space are regarded.
Given that in this case there is something not entirely "justified" about the spatial situation to work on,
a problematic spectrum for architectural action opens up ranging from cynicism (manifold in projects aiming
at beautification) to radical change. What the latter effects is, one can imagine, hard to determine: Wouldn´t
it be most radical to postpone all building work until systemic injustices done to, eg, undocumented
migrants are abolished? How can architecture that "still builds" be critical? The dilemma of how all archi-
tecture is entangled with hegemonic powers and, further, how every "humanitarian" improvement seems to
serve their continuation is all-too well known.
The project is located in an existing prison from 1935, which is listed as a historical building, yet is still in
use for imprisonment up to 18 months. The brief for the "percentage-for-art" project accompanying the general
refurbishment of the instution, was written by the art educators' collective trafo.K.
During the first visit of the prison, it became obvious that there was hardly any outdoor space, let alone
qualitative ones. My question why there was no football field was answered by pointing to the lack of the
inmates' interest in playing football or other sports. More hesitantly, it was told, that they were not allowed
to because of the lack in space. To create this missing football field became my goal – even though it seemed
that there was in fact no place for it.
With a "wrinkled" football field in a tiny prison courtyard I tried to expose rather than to cover up an existing
spatial articulation of injustice. Another aspect, however, was also to mediate between those, on the one hand,
who found making such an effort for inmates unnecessary and those, on the other hand, who believed in the
usefulness of such a space and who were willing to assume that the project would not be at once ruined by
The spatial setting of "Outside in prison" is about getting some green into the grey and tight courtyard
which was used as the men's walking yard. Due to the lack of sunlight falling in, it is impossible to grow
a lawn there. Also, the yard is small, in fact smaller than the smallest Bambini soccer field, and, furthermore,
it has rough edges.
All the same, the goal was to turn this yard into a sport's field – with some curtailments, but also some new
perspectives and possibilities. This was done by not denying but integrating the existing problematic spatial
conditions into the aesthetic concept, so that the impossibilities conspicuously display the injustice of the space
as much as they create qualities not foreseen by the existing "distribution of the sensible" (Jacques Rancičre).
By having rest areas and sport zones overlap, the small outside space cladded in artificial lawn is in itself
more than one space: the sum of 'switchable' usages of space ideally and conceptually turns one square-meter
into several square meters: basketball across the yard, soccer (miniaturized) along the yard, badminton in
original size. A landscape to hang out in is folding up in that part of the courtyard which receives some
sunlight at some times. All windows are by nature of the place protected with gratings.
This project is the only project of mine, which is photographically documented without people in the pictures;
this is done purposefully in this case, since anybody in a prison has a right to anonymity.
Konzept / Concept
Architektur / Architecture
GABU Heindl Architekture
Baufirma / Construction company
Ausloberin / Client
BIG − Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft & Justizanstalt Krems
content: (c) GABU Heindl Architektur 2013