Habitable Space is an animated short video of an architectural tour through a fictitious immigration detention centre. The viewer is led through labyrinthine interior spaces designed based architectural design standards, international legal recommendations on “habitable space”, and personal anecdotes from people who have experienced such spaces. The absence of human beings – detainees, guards, and visitors – draws attention to the spaces themselves, which are banal and familiar institutional environments. The goal is to implicate both the viewer who is touring through the space and the people who design, construct, and maintain such spaces, from the detail of the door handles to the program of carceral institutions.
The video is a "walk through" of a 3D digital model typical to architectural representations of proposed projects (often used to "sell" a design proposal). Accompanying the stark imagery are audio recordings from former and current immigration detainees inside Lindsay, Ontario's maximum security Central East Correction Centre. These publically available recordings are done with the permission of the detainees by Mina Ramos of the End Immigration Detention Network (www.endimmigrationdetentionnetwork.com). The visual imagery overlaid with audio recordings convey a sense of spatial haunting, recentering the human experience in these spaces of incarceration, from the container to the contained.
Tings Chak is a multidisciplinary artist and designer trained in architectural design whose work draws inspiration from anti-colonial, anti-racist, prison abolition, and spatial justice struggles. She is a migrant justice organizer and believes in the freedom to move, return, and stay for peoples here and everywhere. Her graphic novel, Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention (The Architecture Observer, 2014), explores the role and ethics of architectural design and representation in mass incarceration. She is also the recipient of the Power Corporation of Canada Award at the Canadian Centre of Architecture (2013), and the Kuwabara-Jackman Architecture Thesis Gold Medal (2014).