Inter-transitional Architecture: New Spatial Models for Prisoner Reintegration in New Zealand
The aim of this research was to explore the design of transitional housing for newly released prisoners from the New Zealand prison environment. This was achieved through the development of an architecture that provides a dynamic, vibrant, beautiful and connective environment for those using the space. Reconnecting released prisoners with society requires careful consideration. The use of architecture may aid released prisoner’s societal habilitation and wellbeing by creating informed dynamic interior spaces. The issues released prisoners face when trying to reintegrate back into society were analysed. This research focused on how these issues can be addressed through the built environment. Current issues include the lack of supportive accommodation available to released prisoners, the lack of successful mental health interventions, the disproportionate representation of the population in New Zealand prisons and the absence of healing environments for released prisoners. The research provides evidence that a family and community based model for transitional housing could be successful in New Zealand. It also discussed how released prisoners can improve their personal view of themselves when they are adequately supported by their family and have a strong connection to their site, culture and context. It is argued that released prisoner’s positive sense of self may improve their mental health and recidivism rates. An improvement of recidivism rates is valuable to wider society’s safety. The research suggests that an ambient, healing and calm atmosphere might be achieved through material texture and tactility and natural lighting in a family and cultural based model. The proposed design was aimed at a small focus group of three released prisoners and their family members. The purpose was to reconnect and support the family through the reintegration of the released prisoner. There are three main blocks in the design: a reflection space, a communal block, and three private blocks for each family. The design of the walls aimed to visually connect the users to the context of the building and to act as a prompt to establish a relationship with their cultural background. The proposed design uses materiality, lighting and symbolism as techniques to improve the therapeutic atmosphere of the interior. The design research process and the proposed design was critically analysed and reflected on. The research is related back to a global context and collectively a contribution to the existing body of knowledge was made.