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The Sacred Reformatory

Part 1 Project 2010
Ardi Rexhepi
University of Brighton | UK
‘The Sacred Reformatory’ is a speculative project which stretches existing ethical boundaries to create a world where sentenced criminals are recruited into a cult like faction. Through physical and psychological procedures that hijack cognitive mechanisms, members of the facility are re-conditioned to change their existing belief systems.

Based in one of the hidden courtyard spaces in Brick Lane’s urban fabric, the Sacred Reformatory is a panoptic building where the architecture facilitates the expression of power, control and authority. The facility is a centralised building with a tall watch tower in its heart, acting as the ‘altar’ and the physical manifestation of the ‘leader’. Within are a series of spaces designed to survey and maintain the various aspects of the reformatory. The altar is separated from the rest of the building, creating segregation between the staff and the prisoners. The combination of its spatial arrangement, the reflective surface and the outer layer of cables, forces a physical and visual disconnection onto the prisoners where they are never sure if someone is watching them or not, initially inducing a sense of paranoia and later a need for expression of devotion.

Around the altar are a series of carefully arranged, interlinking corridors that comprise of two spaces, one floating within the other. The floating space becomes a series of cables, stretched within the larger container and fashioned by the physical limitations of the user.

Extended beyond the maximum physical reach, structurally sound walls provide support for the cables and the floating platform. The gap between the cables and the outer barrier becomes the psychological barrier. The various combinations between the two barriers create a variety of architectural conditions that fulfil various requirements of the programme.

The overall proposal sits within a very confined space. It is overlooked on all sides and is in very close proximity with the existing buildings. With this in mind, the building is designed to have minimal impact on accessibility, rights to light and privacy of the neighbouring buildings. The original Brick Lane facade is retained to keep the proposal hidden from the outside world.

Ardi Rexhepi

‘The Sacred Reformatory’ provides a conjectural framework for an architectural proposal rooted in an exceptional reading of the inter-relationships between religion, space, programme and hierarchy.

The project sets up a series of analyses to inform the creation of a programmatic logic for a typological hybrid. Neither prison nor cathedral, ‘The Sacred Reformatory’ establishes a structural, material and circulatory system from which space, light and hierarchy can be ordered and manipulated to form a Piranesi-like installation in Brick Lane’s hidden courtyards. Like a medieval church playing host to smaller-scale domestic structures, the reformatory nestles within the constraints of the site; creating an awesome internal architectural mechanism with the lightest of touches on Brick Lane itself.

Unusual in an undergraduate student, Ardi’s work is rigorously structured, exquisitely drawn and terrifyingly executed.

Nick Hayhurst
Tamsie Thomson

Nick Hayhurst

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