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4th December 2009, 3:58pm
International experts explore links between justice and architecture
Lincoln Castle is a former prison. Picture courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council. The relationship between justice and the cities, court buildings and prisons where it is administered was explored in a unique international conference at the University of Lincoln.

Experts from a broad spectrum of backgrounds converged on Lincoln for the three-day conference, 'Architecture and Justice'.

Tackling themes ranging from penal reform and the architecture of prisons through to changing meanings of justice and the balance between individual rights and the collective good, the event brought together eminent academics from across the world, including delegates from the USA, Australia and South Africa.

One of the conference organisers, Professor Nicholas Temple, Head of the Lincoln School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, said: "The conference brought together a unique range of experts – criminologists, lawyers, judges, philosophers and, of course, architects and architectural historians. It made for an unusual debate, but from the outset the aim was that the conference should not simply be about issues of design but also sought to address the question of the visibility of justice."

Keynote speakers included Professor Raymond Geuss of Cambridge University, whose paper 'Politics, Architecture and Justice' examined the extent to which architecture – regarded by some as the most political form of art because of the way buildings structure our lives - influences our perceptions of justice.

Professor Jonathan Simon from University of California, Berkeley, delivered a keynote entitled 'Governing Through Crime', which explored the links between levels of home ownership in the USA and public attitudes towards crime and incarceration.

Professor Temple presented two papers, including 'Watchmen in the Vineyard: John Merryweather and Lincoln Castle', which cast light on the intriguing story of the early 19th century prison governor who indulged his secret love of astronomy and horticulture by constructing a new observatory tower and cultivating gardens at the castle.

Delegates were also taken on a tour of Lincoln’s famous 11th century landmark and the adjacent court building – which still serves as Lincoln’s crown court today.

Professor Temple added: "Lincoln Castle has been a place of incarceration since it was built by William the Conqueror and in the late 18th and 19th centuries was used as a prison. It has some unfortunate but interesting associations – it was where the 'long drop' method of hanging was developed and is also famous for its chapel, whose design is based on the so-called ‘Pentonville system’ of isolation developed in Britain. Ironically, perhaps, this legacy provides a backdrop to the permanent exhibition of one of the last remaining copies of the Magna Carta in the castle prison."

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