Thursday, May 05, 2005

Don't Help Build Prisons, Architect Urges Colleagues

Joe Garofoli, SF Chronicle

After he got arrested while banging a drum at a 2003 war protest outside Bechtel in San Francisco, Raphael Sperry got the sense that the peace movement "needed to be better prepared in the future." So the 31-year-old San Francisco architect issued a call to architects, engineers, designers and planners -- to refuse to design prisons.

After a year of research into prisons, Sperry speaks the language of the advocate. At a recent forum on his boycott at the American Institute of Architects' San Francisco office, he told the nearly all-white audience of the racial disparity in prisons and brought out PowerPoint charts and graphs about crowded conditions. Heads nodded as he spoke of architects using their high ethical standards to "assert their vision for society."

Prison reform advocates not only love his idea, they love the people it is coming from... Even though only 274 architects have signed his boycott pledge, Sperry has created enough of a stir that an American Institute of Architects committee on justice building design has drafted a response to it.

While not endorsing the boycott, the committee said "architects should concentrate on designing better prisons," said Beverly Prior, principal in a San Francisco firm and a member of the committee. [our emphasis]


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