The panopticon prison as a “social condenser”: The study of the project for De Koepel prison by Rem Koolhaas/OMA (1979–1988)

Elena Martínez-Millana, Andrés Cánovas Alcaraza

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Abstract

Rem Koolhaas/OMA carried out the study for De Koepel prison throughout a decade (1979–1988). However, only its initial stages (1979–1980) were disclosed and have been investigated. The hypothesis presented in this article suggests that Koolhaas implemented his —then— recent thesis present in Delirious New York (1978) on “life in the metropolis” and the “Culture of Congestion” in the conception and design of this project. Thus, this article has the aim of examining —by means of the documents compelling the entire period of the study— how the project suggested transforming the domesticity of De Koepel prison into a “social condenser” of the contemporary metropolis. By doing so, it makes it possible to consider the role of this project within the first decade of Koolhaas' career as an architect (1978–1989), and to establish that Delirious New York is, in fact, the theory on which it was based on when first conceived. This project anticipated the strategy and the methodology he implemented, at a later time, in other projects, offering a different perspective. On this occasion, this diagrammatic investigation took place in Bentham's Panopticon; reason why, he was then able to develop the reflections on heterotopias and prisons carried out by Foucault.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalFrontiers of Architectural Research
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Domesticity
  • Collective housing
  • Panopticon prison
  • Social condenser

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