In partnership with the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Art Processors led the creative transformation of Pentridge Prison into an immersive visitor experience, opening up the historic site as a new destination for locals and visitors to uncover unsettling truths about a brutal era in Australian history.
Image: H Division, Pentridge Prison. Photo: Brent Lukey.
Image: Pentridge Prison. Photo: Brent Lukey.
Image: B Division, Pentridge Prison. Photo: Brent Lukey.
Image: ‘Rebellion’ featuring Ray Mooeny. H Division, Pentridge Prison. Photo: Art Processors.
Image: ‘Separate and Silent’, B Division. Photo: Brent Lukey.
Image: Audio interface screen captures
Image: ‘My Cell’, B Division, Pentridge Prison. Photo: Art Processors.
Image: ‘Executions’, B Division, Pentridge Prison. Photo: Brent Lukey.
We were challenged to create an immersive visitor experience that fully realises the National Trust's vision to ensure the true heritage of Pentridge Prison is not forgotten. This involved integrating an exploration of the site's 150-year history with powerful first-hand accounts from those who spent time there. The experience was designed to provoke visitors to consider the nature of retributive justice in our society and to confront the complex and sometimes unsettling history of Victoria's penal system. Art Processors created a thought-provoking and confronting journey that juxtaposes the stark history of Pentridge with the modern redevelopment of the wider precinct.
Through authentic set-dressed cells, life-size projections, historical artifacts, and photographs, our design solution drew inspiration from the concept of 'if these walls could talk.' We aimed to put the people of the prison at the core of the experience, bringing their unheard voices to life through two location-aware audio journeys: “B-Division: Pentridge Through Time;” and/or “H-Division: Unlocked,” confronting some of the most brutal elements of the site’s history. The immersive experience was further enhanced with powerful interpretive design within the cells, integrating the original Bluestone walls as a storyteller, where projected media is displayed directly on the surface.
The redevelopment of Pentridge Prison inside an urban renewal project contextualises 150 years of a hidden regime. Against the backdrop of a modern-day neighborhood, there’s a confronting story. By shedding light on the history of the prison within the larger continuing story of Wurundjeri Land, we sought to ensure this history would not be lost or whitewashed. Moreover, the experience provokes contemplation on the nature of transgression, retribution, and rehabilitation. Ultimately it asks visitors to consider the broader social and ethical implications of incarceration, highlighting the need for a more nuanced and empathetic approach to criminal justice.
The Pentridge Prison Tours offer two 90-minute immersive experiences that allow visitors to explore the authentic B and H Divisions, which are brought to life through immersive audio, recreated cells, life-size projections, artifacts, and photographs. Using location-aware immersive technology, visitors are surrounded by the stories and voices of Pentridge as they explore the prison at their own pace. The historic Warder’s Residence reveals the different layers of Pentridge's 150-year history, with motion graphic projections illuminated across the original bluestone walls, showcasing moments from Pentridge's past. The large-scale projection, enhanced by four-channel atmospheric soundscapes, immerses visitors in the prison’s story without hiding the original surface of the bluestone. A sculpture made from the bluestone walls of the prison, combined with bone-conducting audio technology, allows visitors to listen to a few of the prison’s hidden stories just by touching the stones. The recreated cells and original wall art created from historic images embed Pentridge's narrative into the texture and surface of the prison. In H "Hell" Division, visitors encounter projections revealing the experiences of those who spent time within its walls. Overall, this immersive experience allows visitors to engage with Pentridge's complex history in a thought-provoking and meaningful way.