Material Environments

Written by - Claudia Rodriguez

Touring the LaSalle County Regional Detention Center in Encinal, Texas, brought home the concept of materiality. Upon arrival, one is struck by the chain link fence and barbed wire surrounding the facility. The excessive fencing materialized the lack of freedom experienced by the detainees. Once inside, the next material that drew my eyes was concrete. Every wall surface of the facility was constructed of CMU blocks painted white. The concrete reminds one of the permanent nature of the facility. With no windows to the outside, the inside is bleak, lacking fresh air and natural light. The infinite white corridors of the facility provide the user with no sense of direction. Every space looks the same; it is all but a cold and sterile sea of concrete. Following concrete, metal is the next material. Heavy metal doors, metal chairs and tables, metal toilets and water faucets, and 566 rusted metal bunk beds. The cold properties of metal materialized the inhumane treatment of the detainees. As if they weren’t deserving of warmth. Lastly, there is plastic. Plastic shoes, chunky plastic food trays, and thin plastic sleeping pads. The synthetic properties of plastic materialized the artificial life the detainees are being submitted to.