The Spring 2018 issue of Context offers a few interesting perspectives in the broad and complex topic of housing. 

Special Offer
for AIA Philadelphia Members

Architectural Record is offering AIA Philadelphia Members the chance to continue their subscription for a special rate of $49 for a full year. To view the offer and continue your subscription, click here.

May 12, 2017
Member News

Prisons Today Exhibit Designed by Metcalfe Wins National Award

By ZEST Marketing + Communications

Eastern State Penitentiary’s latest exhibit, Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, has won First Place in the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award presented by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Metcalfe, an architecture, exhibit, and graphic design firm based in Philadelphia, provided the design services for this powerful exhibit. This is the second time a Metcalfe design has been honored with AAM’s Excellence in Exhibition award; the first was in 2010 for Out on a Limb at Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.

Prisons Today opened in 2016 and is the first major museum exhibition on the topic of mass incarceration. The exhibit uses graphic displays, video, and interactives to create a participatory and introspective experience about the role and effectiveness of prisons in America. The aesthetics and the mixed media are designed to encourage a critical dialogue about criminal justice, race, and civil rights in today’s society.

Designers from Metcalfe worked closely with Eastern State Penitentiary to arrange their conceptual elements from entry to exit so that the visitor experience is rich in content with an efficient flow. Layers of information are blended and organized to bring clarity and attention to an issue that is at the center of present-day political discussions. The exhibit team’s communication goal was to create crisp, clear language that highlighted and humanized the myriad issues surrounding mass incarceration.

The intensity of this exhibit is enhanced by its locale within Eastern State Penitentiary – in the former workshops of Cellblock 4 lining the prison’s former baseball diamond. Cellblock 4 is part of the 187-year old prison complex, once the country’s most famous and expensive prison, and the world’s first true “penitentiary.” Housing an exhibit in a National Historic Landmark raised additional design concerns about the form of the exhibit and required coordination and collaboration with architectural conservators, historic preservationists, engineers, electricians, and roofers to ready the space.

Previous winners of the Excellence in Exhibition Award include the National Museum of the American Indian and the National September 11 Memorial Museum.


Metcalfe designs human experiences. We are exhibit designers, architects, and graphic designers who visualize places where people learn, work, play, heal, live and connect. Our clients are museums, schools, hospitals, restaurants, corporations and even other architecture firms who select us to create their buildings, social spaces, experiences and exhibits.

©Copyright 2008-2018 AIA Philadelphia. All Rights Reserved.