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Inmates' dream prison cell could be a blueprint for low-cost housing

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Inmates at a high-security prison in Spoleto, Italy have created the "Freedom Room," a living space that fits inside the confines of a 4m x 2.7m (116 square feet) prison cell. Within the extremely limited space, the Freedom Room integrates a pair of beds, a chest of drawers, a closet, a desk, shelving, a toilet, and a bathroom with shower, along with an enlarged opening to the outside world to bring in more light. It's a dream prison cell that is extremely unlikely to ever make its way into Italian prisons, but the inmates-turned-designers have higher hopes for their concept. They want it to become a blueprint of sorts for temporary or social housing, youth hostels, and other areas where money and space is tight Freedomroomsketch

The Freedom Room began through one of Spoleto correctional facility's work programs. Much of the furniture found in prisons across Italy are made in the carpentry shop inside Spoleto. The inmates working in the carpentry shop have over the years used the skills they gained there to create objects for use inside their cells, such as shelving made from cigarette cartons. A trio of designers from Cibic Workshop used the prisoners as design consultants on the project, incorporating their knowledge of living in confined spaces and manufacturing simple but functional furniture. The result is a room full of storage, flat surfaces that can be used for multiple purposes, and sliding counters. Although the designers don't expect the Freedom Room to be adopted for use inside prisons, they hope the concept will spark a conversation about improving the living conditions inside italian correctional facilities. A book (written in Italian) explains the thinking behind the concept, and has a number of photos of the room itself, taken when the Freedom Room went on display in Milan last week.