Prisoners’ Apothecarts

by Albert & Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design


Silver Winner

Pop-ups and Temporary Architecture Built

Professionals Category

Designer / Architect: Albert & Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design
Design Team: Collaborators: Solitary Gardens The Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design at Tulane School of Architecture Resurrection after Exoneration Samara School of Community Herbalism Design/Build Team: • Emilie Taylor Welty (professor) • Nick Jenisch (project manager) • Elizabeth Bateman • Jeremy Baudy • Anna Deeg • Claire Divito • Rebecca Dunn • Adrian Evans • Danelle Martin • Danielle Scheeringa • Bhumika Shirole • Zach Speroni • James Rennert • Dana Ridenour Support: • Johnson Controls, Inc. • Tulane University’s Community Engaged Learning and Teaching program • Skatelite
Country: United States
Copyright: Jose Cotto


The Prisoners’ Apothecarts, or apothecary carts, are a series of mobile herbal medicine carts that advocate for prison reforms and make healing justice visible and accessible across the City of New Orleans. The Apothecarts challenge us to imagine a landscape without prisons. There are 2.2 million incarcerated people in the United States, and of those around 90,000 are subjected to indefinite solitary confinement every day. The devastating and often irreparable effects of solitary confinement include, but are not limited to, alienation, dehumanization, despair, disorientation, paranoia, and suicidal ideation. The Apothecarts transform plants into medicine for communities most deeply impacted by the insidious reach of mass incarceration. Natural medicine, tea, tinctures, steams, and salves are created in conversation (written letters) with people in solitary confinement across the US. As the medicine is designed by folks who are incarcerated and distributed to affected communities, incarcerated individuals thereby have a unique opportunity to heal the communities they are often accused of harming. The Apothecarts were designed and built by a group of architecture students. Their work is part of an ongoing effort to expand design access across our community, foster a collaborative design process, and prepare a new generation of architects to create a more just world. This academic studio pairs a team of architecture students with a local non-profit to program, design, and fabricate a project that models design excellence and best practices in community engagement. This research is action-based and includes interviews, area expert teach-ins, observation, and surveys as part of the project design phase. That research then guides design options presented to a core group of stakeholders who participate in a multi-stage feedback loop resulting in a final built project, or in this case two small, built, bike-towed carts. The Apothecarts project works at the intersection of design, social justice, and abolition and shows the potential of design to impact complex social issues.

The Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design is the community design center of the Tulane School of Architecture. We operate at the intersection of design and civic engagement. We contend that innovative solutions to the most pressing problems facing our community lie in giving voice to residents. Our partner organizations bring their project ideas to us, and we bring our design expertise to bear in collaboration, supporting New Orleans residents in imagining and pursuing projects that strengthen neighborhoods and contribute to a city shaped by its residents.

We encourage designers and architects to share their best projects with the rest of the world so as to inspire the next generation and gain global recognition.