The latest in the now quite lengthy list of micro-dwelling innovations: chic units inspired by the lifehacks of inmates. At the annual Milan design fair last week, the Italian firm Cibic Workshop unveiled Freedom Room, a micro-living prototype conceived by Italian prisoners—you know, veritable experts on making do with next to nothing and masters of the art of transforming a tiny empty box into a home. In 2009, Cibic teamed up with Comodo, a group of designers that offers professional design training to inmates, to help recruit incarcerated people as "consultants" on these tiny homes. Together, Cibic and Comodo visited a high-security prison in Spoleto, Italy, the Umbrian town where furniture for the nation's penitentiaries gets made, to ask the inmates and local carpenters how they would go about making the most pared-back, efficient space out of a prison cell's 116 square feet. The results? Have a look, below.
Like all micro-home dwellers, the inmates said they needed more storage—some of the more industrious craft shelves out of cigarette cartons—as well as adaptable spaces and greater privacy. In Freedom Room, odds and ends can be hidden away under the bed, under the sink, above the workspace, or in (cigarette-carton-inspired) shelving above the beds. A cutting board over the sink means the tiny area essentially becomes the kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom, though the toilet and shower are partitioned for privacy.
Freedom Room is meant to be a model for temporary residences, youth hostel rooms, social housing, and (eventually, yes) prison cells. What's more, with that streamlined appeal and those polished finishes, these cells may just usurp Spain's Mas d'Enric Penitentiary as world's most gorgeous prison.