Originally named ‘Prisión Celular’ during its inauguration in 1904, the Barcelona penitentiary was quickly dubbed Modelo informally and the name finally stuck.

It was designed by architects Salvador Viñais and Josep Domenech i Estapa in 1881 loosely following Bentham’s idea of the Panopticon. Each of its six halls would be connected by a circular hall at the centre from which the guards could carry out the surveillance. The different stems would then be used to divide the prisoners into six categories ordered by factors such as severity of their crimes or length of sentence.

Seen as a symbol of Franquist repression due to its use by the military for the incarceration and execution of political opponents, the prison was compromised and all prisoners released during the Spanish Civil War by anarchist groups.

The Modelo prison was finally shut down in June 2017 and is expected to be demolished in the near future.


Focault’s thoughts on our modern prison system seem rather fitting:

“Prison is the only place where power is manifested in its naked state, in its most excessive form, and where it is justified as moral force. 
“I am within my rights to punish you because you know that it is criminal to rob and kill . . . 
What is fascinating about prisons is that, for once, power doesn’t hide or mask itself; 
it reveals itself as tyranny pursued into the tiniest details; it is cynical and at the same time pure and entirely “justified,”
because its practice can be totally formulated within the framework of morality.
Its brutal tyranny consequently appears as the serene domination of Good over Evil, of order over disorder.”