Oculus — "Roads, Not Walls"

'The challenges of designing prisons, jails, courthouses, and correctional facilities—distilling local and national visions of crime, punishment, and forgiveness into physical reality—has always been a complicated one. Architects need to balance unique safety and security concerns and, in some cases, ask whether such structures should even be built. Alone among peer nations in terms of prisoner population, the United States, and the continued expansion of its carceral system, embodies a dark form of exceptional-ism that challenges architects working in this field. One of the defining images of last summer’s protests over George Floyd’s murder was the burning down of a police station in Minneapolis. Amid calls of “defund the police” and larger initiatives to rethink community safety and sentencing, the nation seems both tethered to physical monuments of its police and prison systems, and ready to get rid of them. . .

Jeanne Gang, FAIA, believes that community investment should be the guiding vision for any reckoning and redesign concerning justice, police, and prisons. Her firm presented an in-depth, self-initiated research project called Polis Station at the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015, which traced the history of American police forces and offered strategies for redesigning police stations by turning existing buildings into multiuse community hubs. . .

Part of Gang’s vision was simply reconsidering who these buildings are meant to serve. Police stations can be made smaller, more approachable, and less fortress-like, which creates rapport and trust between citizens and police. Adding basketball courts, WiFi, mental health clinics, and community meeting spaces can help build reliance and legitimacy, and ideally stop someone from entering the justice system entirely.'

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Polis Station Youth Workshop, Designed by Studio Gang

At “Community Café” workshops, we led conversations with residents of Chicago’s 10th District to learn how their station could offer more activities and amenities. We also led workshops with local teens, including a “Round Table” event where, through talking and sketching with students from the Al Raby Public High School, we learned about the spaces and programs they want to see in their neighborhood.

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Fast Company — “How Studio Gang is Reimagining the Community Police Station”

Fast Company — “How Studio Gang is Reimagining the Community Police Station”

A finalist in Fast Company’s 2018 Innovation By Design Awards, the Studio’s Polis Station project is spotlighted.