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Wednesday, 01 May 2013 22:33

Pentonville

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Pentonville

pentonville1  pentonville2  Pentonville3

In 1966 I was invited to work in London with Christopher Alexander and Barry Poyner, formulating a theory which would later be known as A Pattern Language a system of objectifying the design of space and organisations based upon observed human behaviour. In 1967, the new methodology was trialled. The very first use of A Pattern Language was therefore here, in the design of a brief for Prison Workshops for the Ministry of Public Building and Works in association with the Ministry of Justice. It seemed like a straightforward assignment at the time - go into prisons, watch how the staff and inmates behave, and then design a pattern language (a set of behaviour-related spatial arrangements) that might lead to more therapeutic outcomes and to a reduction in the recidivism rate.

 
What we were not told at the time, was that the programme was designed to have the inmates "acquire the habit of work" so that they could get and hold a job when released. The real agenda, of course, was to reduce the prison budget by having the inmates work at low rates in repetitive-task jobs so that Corrections could compete with outside labour rates and make a profit. In other words, the therapeutic intent was a sham to mask the actual intent of the programme. Below is a reflective comment written at the time. and following a visit to Pentonville Prison in London. Pentonville was built in 1842 - the year that Maori signed the tTeaty of Waitangi with the cCown in New Zealand.

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