Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?



Although architects have all but boycotted prison design, incarceration undoubtedly remains a spatial issue. The prison isolates the criminal at a safe distance from the public, restricting him or her to a fixed space deemed habitable. Punishment is calculated along a spatial-temporal matrix: the more severe the crime, the more punitive the space of confinement and the longer the prisoner is condemned to occupy it. This formula comes into focus when considering illegal acts that have traditionally been the subject of vigorous ethical debate.

The installation Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? asks visitors to rethink the space between crime and punishment. A touch-screen interface invites visitors to play an intricate and politically charged video game. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by an LCD screen that displays an array of crimes ranging in their severity and moral ambiguity: drug use, sexual deviance, insider trading, conspiracy, disturbing the peace, unlawful conduct, and illegal immigration, among others.

After the visitor selects a crime, the screen shows an initial cell design as an interactive panorama. By pointing the screen in any direction — left, right, up, or down — the visitor aligns the virtual view on the screen with the actual white cube space beyond. As the viewer adjusts the properties of confinement according to parameters of hard versus soft, opacity versus transparency, and un­plugged versus online, the screen displays the resulting cell design virtually.

The installation presents a new calculus for spatial confinement that links crime and punishment. Within the bounds of a fixed volume, the cell can be customized with a series of options that adjust levels of isolation, privacy, and social interaction as well as access to elements such as light, fresh air, and communications.

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? was commissioned by Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo for the exhibition YOUPrison, curated by Francesco Bonami.

  • User interface rendering
    User interface rendering
  • No description
Project information
Location         Fondazione Sandretto de Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy
opening12th June 2008closed12th October 2008
External credits
Francesco BonamiCurator