For incarcerated individuals, there are few windows to the outside world. However, there is one way to transcend, mentally and spiritually, the concrete walls in which they are housed: books.
Books—from self-help, how-to, and body-building manuals to texts on history, sports, music, art, health, and religion—are a valued commodity in carceral spaces. As such, they need to be highly accessible both physically and in content and interest, and delivered without delays.
Leave it to students at Parsons School of Design to design a way of getting books into the hands of incarcerated individuals.
Recently students at Parsons, in partnership with the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Correctional Services Program, designed and fabricated four book carts to be used in Rikers Island and the Manhattan Detention Complex. The carts, which were delivered to the facilities last week, embody Parsons’ dedication to design thinking and designing for social good.
The project was initiated last year by NYPL, which reached out to Parsons with what students and faculty saw as a “design and build challenge.” Working closely with NYPL officials, 13 graduate and undergraduate architecture, product design, interior design, design studies, interdisciplinary science, and lighting design students spent the fall 2015 semester developing, testing, and revising original designs that addressed the needs of the client-users. What they came up with, said Mikhail Volf, a Parsons student who participated in the project, is a product that “balances utility and aesthetics.”
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