The optics and architecture of power; redesigning the judicial system

I was unsure of what to expect before starting Jury service. Full of apprehension and excitement, with only a superficial (cinematic) understanding of the process, I became part of the judicial mechanism. What I wasn’t ready for, was how fascinating and terrifying I’d find the spatial and performative design of the institution of law.

Geoff Manaugh observes that burglars have a spatial superpower; they are the ‘dark wizards’ of our cities. If this is the case, then the Crown Court is the mechanism to disrupt and strip them of this superpower. An architecture in a Foucauldian struggle to reassign power in a carefully crafted dance of people, spaces, histories and futures. A space and programme that is carefully crafted in order to ‘concretise’ an image of fairness; a materialisation, in bricks, mortar, oak panelling and cheap commercial furniture, aimed to facilitate (supposed) neutrality.

On entering the Crown Court, through the metal detectors, searches and instances of liquid consumption (sipping water bottles and coffee cups to demonstrate that they contain neither acid or explosive), we were herded upstairs through a private stairwell to the Jury Assembly. The room felt like a cheap, provincial airport waiting lounge with no destination; a room of such extreme blandness; a bureaucratic purgatorium where we were briefed; a temporal crossing where we waited and made decisions on a variety of cases and futures. This bland, architectural no-man’s land was my home for two weeks.

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