Initial Space Audit – Old Melbourne Gaol.

Initial class site visit.

The aspect of the space that was most apparent to my sensitivities upon visiting Old Melbourne Gaol was the historical and institutional overlay. The space had over time changed drastically in terms of function, risk, ownership and purpose.

These are perhaps meta-contexts of an environment where the base contexts are the facets directly tangible and perceivable by the senses – how does a space smell (musty, fragrant, clinical), feel (rough, smooth, complex), sound (polluted, pure, harmonic, tranquil) and look (purposeful, busy, messy).

Foucault makes much of Jeremy Bentham’s notion of the Panopticon in the architecture of disciplinary mechanisms. While Old Melbourne Gaol does not exhibit completely Bentham’s perfected design it does contain aspects of a structure-for-the-gaze. In fact the former prisoners are now so completely the object of the gaze (of the tourist) in this environment that they now no longer inhabit it. The gaze has obliterated the actual subject and replaced it with it’s ossified remains.


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