University of the Arts London

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Cell Furniture Designs by DAC

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posted on 2024-04-29, 09:58 authored by Lorraine Gamman, Adam Thorpe

Developing the co-design concepts into realisitic furniture proposals​

The design cohort at HMP Standford Hill was comprised of prisoners, HMP staff and DAC designers. Over a four day period, they collaboratively generated cell furniture concepts that responded to the needs of prisoners and the HMP estate. Following the co-design sessions, DAC developed the cell furniture concepts into feasible cell furniture proposals that were safe, comfortable, robust, cost-effective, and sustainable in terms of materials and manufacture.

DAC's Cell Furniture Framework

DAC created a furniture framework to conceptualise how the new design proposals would collectively form a sustainable and resilient ecosystem of cell furniture. A visualisation of the framework is depicted below and explained throughout this section.

Make Once Make Well

'Make Once Make Well' describes a range of products that are intended to last a long time with minimal maintenance. The more intensive fabrication and potentially higher manufacturing cost required to make these products is justified by the products' robustness, lasting quality and lifespan. Cell furniture products in this category might (but not in all cases) take longer to manufacture in prison industries, but the overall quality of material and fabrication would ensure that these products are difficult to break and resistant to wear and tear. Ideally, with better quality and comfort (i.e ergonomics of use), abuse of the furniture items would decrease, in part, due to the furniture's impact on prisoners’ wellbeing.

Distributed Manufacture +

'Distributed Manufacture' describes a system of production that is just-in-time, where products are made-to-order and some components are able to be made quickly and cost-effectively onsite (at prisons) for fast delivery and response times. This kind of manufacture incorporates CNC fabrication principles such that parts like shelves could be quickly ordered, manufactured and replaced in a process that could take place at each prison with standard CNC equipment. In the current system, a handful of prisons make cell furniture, which is then transported to the National Distribution Center in Branston (NDC Branston), and from there, NDC Branston distributes the furniture across the UK to the HMP establishments. Distributed Manufacture imagines a system that addresses inefficiencies in supply and transport, as the production and distribution of some components occurs within each individual prison.

Distributed Manufacture (+) describes the potential for greater customisation of cell furniture, where prisoners could potentially have different furniture options integrated into and reimagining the 'regime' system currently instituted in. This contrasts to the current ‘one-size-fits-all' system, where prisoners receive the same furniture irrespective of their regime, category of prison or personal behaviour.


Disposable furniture is intended for use in segregation (seg) units where prisoners are held if they are deemed at risk of self-harming or harming others (amongst other reasons). This furniture would be made of safe, light, inexpensive and recyclable material, like cardboard. If the disposable furniture is broken, it would not be an effective weapon and the cost and time to manufacture new furniture units would be minimal.


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