Graduate’s architecture innovation on trial at Leeds prison
Karl graduated from our University in 2011 with a BA (Hons) degree in Architecture and is now Creative Director at SAFE Innovations and founder of Leeds-based architectural practice BLA: Burr Lenton Architecture. He designed the ‘seedS’ spaces to give prisoners better and more comfortable access to healthcare.
Prisoners often have pressing health needs – around 70 per cent have mental health issues and a third have addictions to drink or drugs. It is often these issues that drive people to crime so dealing with these whilst in prison can have an impact on their lives following release.
Karl explained: “It became apparent that there needs to be another system of getting more people to healthcare than is the norm. The seedS prison pod is mobile, it can go anywhere the need is greatest and is a space that breaks from institutional prison design. If it can give prisoners purpose, find out their skills, dreams and ambitions, and we can take the idea out into the community, it can tackle reoffending rates.”
SeedS is a structure which accommodates a handful of people at a time, allowing them to access healthcare such as smoking cessation, group therapy, confidential assessments and mindfulness sessions. The facility has changeable lighting, can play music and is a safe, private space for staff and inmates. Inside, the spaces house a central table, colour-changing lamps, speakers and touch screens, and can be used for one-on-one consultations or group meetings of up to four individuals.
Karl said: "Prisons by their very nature are loud environments, made from materials that amplify sound. SeedS's inner foam core is used to dampen and mask these external sounds of prison life, so conversations can take place inside seedS without people having to raise their voices to be heard."
Karl was taught by Architecture lecturers, Dennis Burr and Sarah Mills, during his second and third years at our University and he explained how they inspired him: “It was whist studying with them I realised that architecture was much more than the physical buildings which we occupy, and that architecture has the potential to change lives on a global and local scale. Dennis and Sarah gave me the freedom to firstly explore who I was which gave me a set of principles and design tools which I still use today.
“I believe I grew as a person and became more confident in my ability due to their support and guidance and I am indebted to them both. After graduating from Leeds Beckett I moved to London and studied with Professor Robert Mull at the CASS London Metropolitan University where, through the FREE Unit, (which invites final year students to generate live projects that act as the first stage of their future practice) I designed seedS. Whilst on the FREE Unit, seedS was nominated for a RIBA South West Live Project Award, won the Sir John Cass Award for Social Entrepreneurship and it has just been nominated for a second RIBA Award: Architecture for the Common Good. Dennis and Sarah are part of this journey.”
The seedS project was partially funded by the NHS, with the first space funded by Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Safe Offender Healthcare and Safe Innovations.
Dawn Jessop, Head of Health and Justice Healthcare at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We believe the mobility of seedS will mean we are able to reach more patients and address some of the issues that are preventing prisoners from accessing healthcare. If this pilot goes well, we hope to roll seedS out in other areas where we provide healthcare to prisoners and offenders."