WorkOut, 2005-2006

30 assembled desks; cardboard, hardware, acrylic paint, non-woven fabric; 30 x 60 x 18 inches each, when open

Click HERE to listen to "IKEA Behind Bars," a podcast about the project on WNYC's program Studio 360.

With a Creative Capital grant, Diggs worked for 18 months with 15 incarcerated men at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford (PA) outside of Philadelphia. The project was inspired by an apocalyptic article in a 2004 London Observer predicting extreme living conditions after severe climate-change related flooding.

Diggs sought to work with a community, one with hyper-specialized expertise that few other constituencies possess, in this case experience with living in confined habitats. In January 2005, she began meeting weekly with the incarcerated men to design an object that would be helpful for people living in shelters or temporary communities with limited resources.  After consulting with Philadelphia industrial designer Kreg Jones and the Salm brothers of MioCulture on functionality, efficiency and materials, one prototype was selected for full-scale production—a compactable desk/storage system to be made out of sturdy cardboard, a material consistent with the deprivation of incarceration.  The unit was produced in five colors and incorporated a series of patterns inspired by the inmates’ aesthetic influences: tattoos, graffiti art, labyrinths, South Pacific tribal, Q-bert (an ‘80s video arcade game), M.C. Escher, Haida (North Pacific Native American), the backs of playing cards, and Celtic knot work.

According to the prisoners' wishes, twenty of these were freely distributed to residents at Riverview Home, a city-run care facility for homeless individuals, located in northeast Philadelphia.

Download a PDF instruction manual describing how to build your own portable desk.