MIT Students Team With Nonprofit to Flip a Prison Into an Agricultural Community Center

The entrance of the museum and conference space is lively with greenery and activity. The proposed design includes the addition of a rooftop greenhouse, as well as enlarging existing windows to brighten the interiors. Image Courtesy of Group Project The entrance of the museum and conference space is lively with greenery and activity. The proposed design includes the addition of a rooftop greenhouse, as well as enlarging existing windows to brighten the interiors. Image Courtesy of Group Project

Group Project, a student group from MIT, is helping GrowingChange, a non-profit that works with previously incarcerated youth, to transform an old North Carolina prison into an agricultural community center. GrowingChange looks to take advantage of the small, decommissioned prisons scattered throughout the state's landscape. They see these sites as "places where communities can work together to provide clinical support, education, and vocational training as a means to divert youth from the criminal justice" system. 

Read on for more about how prison flipping intends to "counter a legacy of incarceration."

Prison buildings are inherently inward facing. A new porch next to the community kitchen reclaims outdoor space for eating and lounging. Additional porches will be used throughout the site to encourage a more outward facing campus vibe. Image Courtesy of Group Project Prison buildings are inherently inward facing. A new porch next to the community kitchen reclaims outdoor space for eating and lounging. Additional porches will be used throughout the site to encourage a more outward facing campus vibe. Image Courtesy of Group Project

Rural communities throughout the US live with the egregious legacy of the prison industrial complex. In North Carolina, small workcamp prisons are being closed and inmates are being moved into larger facilities. Meanwhile, incarceration rates continue to rise.

Large glass openings connect the exterior courtyard to the Kitchen—the heart of the campus—and invite visitors inside to watch chefs prepare healthy food, using ingredients grown on the GrowingChange campus. Image Courtesy of Group Project Large glass openings connect the exterior courtyard to the Kitchen—the heart of the campus—and invite visitors inside to watch chefs prepare healthy food, using ingredients grown on the GrowingChange campus. Image Courtesy of Group Project
Centered on healthy, local food, the Community Kitchen building will be the heart of the campus. This building will also host administrative offices. Image Courtesy of Group Project Centered on healthy, local food, the Community Kitchen building will be the heart of the campus. This building will also host administrative offices. Image Courtesy of Group Project

Over the past year, Group Project has worked with the GrowingChange team to develop a series of proposals to transform these prison sites into "Community Kitchens" with sustainable agriculture. The proposals include various spaces that adapt the previously dull interior and exterior of the prison into a lively community hub.

The new Adventure Tower’s four sides are divided between a rappelling wall, an entrance wall, and two climbing walls. Image Courtesy of Group Project The new Adventure Tower’s four sides are divided between a rappelling wall, an entrance wall, and two climbing walls. Image Courtesy of Group Project

This summer, they will return to North Carolina with a larger group of MIT architecture and planning students to continue their collaborative project.

News via: GrowingChange