A new concept of hospitality; an essential, low-cost housing module, designed with prisoners and produced in prison. A proposal/product, an exhibition, an installation for temporary and social hospitality, widespread hotels, hostels.
Can design be a tool for social innovation? Can it provide answers to new emerging needs? Can it, in other words, be an instrument of liberation?
Freedom Room, a laboratory on design in prison, is a project born from the collaboration between Aldo Cibic, Tommaso Corà and Marco Tortoioli Ricci with one of the Italian maximum security prisons, the Spoleto prison, where the Comodo cooperative has been carrying out, since 2003, a training work dedicated to the professional qualification of prisoners in the fields of design, graphics and publishing.
The synergy between Comodo and Aldo Cibic’s studio was born in 2009 to reflect on the possibilities that design can represent to qualify the work inside the prison.
From listening to a group of prisoners, reflections were born that led to the idea of ’living-with-little’, to an environment in which, because it is small, objects must take on more than one function, where the space must be able be interpretable and flexible. A cell is a closed shell, defined as a spatial module. Those who live there need that same space to be a kitchen, bedroom, study, games room, wardrobe, gym, library and more: an interior that is perpetually reinvented by the needs and requirements of those called to live there. In that ‘module’ a stool becomes an oven, a bed a wardrobe, a can an antenna, the table a gym. We rediscover, in that same module and obviously by necessity, that space has a flexible dimension if the experience that each individual can have of it changes.
Many of the prison furnishings in Italy are produced in a large carpentry shop located inside the Spoleto prison itself: working together with the inmates Aldo Cibic, Tommaso Corà and Marco Tortoioli Ricci they learned that many of these furnishings in the space of a cell become something else. Space itself becomes something else. The conditions of constraint and necessity in which many of the inmates in our prisons find themselves living forces them to reinvent both the space of the cell and the function of many of the objects found inside. It is from this observation that the reflection that led to the birth of the Freedom Room project began. The inmates who work in that carpentry shop became the project’s consultants: with them the idea of a more livable space was born, designed to be compact and functional, to respond to new needs, remaining within the size of the reference cell which is measuring 4m by 2.7m. From this new concept of hospitality, an essential, economical housing module has been developed, a proposal/product for temporary solutions, widespread hotels, student residences, hostels or innovative permanent formulas. A room that becomes an environment designed to optimize space, work, study, stay, party, but also a tool for the urban reactivation of disused spaces. The Freedom Room module can be placed inside industrial spaces, urban spaces, commercial or otherwise, no longer occupied. It can become the engine of new social dynamics destined to reinvent the idea of community and neighbourhood.
Freedom Room could be considered as a starting point for rethinking the cells of Italian prisons, like the room of a low-cost hotel or a popular hostel for young people; at the same time it could be the open answer to new housing needs at an affordable price.
Freedom Room could also represent a new idea of a social network, a new way of accessing, booking and relating to local social networks where it is possible to know who and how uses the modules, who your neighbor is and what his habits are. . In a time of crisis, new ideas and examples of innovation, social cohesion and rehabilitation arise from prison.
Freedom Room will have its first prototype exhibited at the Milan Triennale during the Salone del Mobile and a conference on the topic will be held on Thursday 11 April at 5pm, attended by speakers involved in the world of social and design.