Teaching Torture at the University of Kent


Besides creating the occasional wildly successful architect, the schools that teach it rarely get any sort of big time press. That’s largely because, well, it doesn’t get very interesting for anyone except we small group who appreciates such things until they graduate and go on to start putting stuff up in our neighborhoods. But just recently, a program set up for the students in the architecture program at the University of Kent in the UK has started generating some attention for their project brief to design torture devices. And now, of course, in hearing that, the general public is shocked and outraged:

The students’ brief was to design a ‘full-scale operable torture device based on ergonomic principles’. The project briefing was illustrated by a skull and a plan of a Gestapo electric torture chamber.

The task was set by course tutor Mike Richards, apparently to give students a fresh view on the realities of torture. It preceded a major project to design new headquarters for the civil rights group, Liberty.

We can see the point of the University is to challenge and push their student, and to base it in something that’s a hot button issue right now is terrific, it’s just that we can also see why people are jumping all over this, because it makes for a nice soundbite if you leave out all the details. So maybe some preliminary press releases would have helped out. Or having the students all sign something that, “We get what this is all about and we’re cool with it.” We just hope nobody loses their job over this.