[ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Urbanism. ]

Here is criminal justice at its finest.

Should architecture be used as a punishment in itself, made as harsh and cruel as possible in a bid to make inmates sorry for what they’ve done, or should it uplift and rehabilitate them, showing them that there’s more to the world than a life of crime? While some architects boycott prison design altogether so as not to participate in what is often seen as a corrupt and immoral system, others produce (often controversial) designs that revolutionize prisoners’ relationships with their environment, each other and the world at large – for better or worse.


Justizzentrum Leoben Minimum Security Prison, Austria

(images via: hohesinn-arhitektur.at)

Possibly the poshest prison on the world, Austria’s Leoben Justice Center lets inmates live the high life in a beautifully designed facility with perks like designer furniture, personal televisions, gardens and an indoor ping-pong court. Resembling a luxury estate more than a penitentiary for criminals, this ‘rehabilitation center’ aims to give prisoners a comfortable, nurturing place to reflect on their crimes, and inspire them to live better lives in the future. One inscription on the exterior reads, “Each of the persons deprived of their liberty must be humanely and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human being treated.”

Shipping Container Prison Cells

(images via: adelaidenow, greenbiz)

Are shipping container prison cells a brilliant example of eco-minded reuse, or a cruel way to house criminals? A local prison in Australia has upcycled shipping containers into cheap prisoner housing, and another prison in New Zealand has begun using them as a solution for overcrowding. The concept has drawn controversy from critics who worry that the conditions of shipping container prison cells are inhumane, or that they’re not secure enough.

Vertical Prison

(image via: evolo.us)

An interesting concept from Malaysian designers Chow Khoon Toong, Ong Tien Yee and Beh Ssi Cze places a productive prison complex in the air above a ‘host city’. This vertical prison aims to create a prison community where inmates live and work in agricultural fields, factories and recycling plants as a way to give back to the community. While law-abiding citizens below might not appreciate their view of the sky being replaced with a looming, spaceship-like prison, the system would theoretically turn a prison sentence into a learning experience that benefits everyone.

Halden Fengsel Prison, Norway

(images via: architizer)

This prison, located in Norway, is nicer than the homes of many wealthy people, featuring award-winning architecture, art and amenities. Believing that prisons needn’t be cruel and painful in order to be effective, Erik Møller Architects produced a facility where inmates can jog down woodland trails and take cooking classes. While this may seem unreasonably plush for a place of punishment, it’s worth noting that whereas harsh and austere prisons in UK and Britain have a 50% return rate, Norway’s is only 20%.

Benthamite Radial Prisons

(images via: wikimedia commons)

In 1791, philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham designed an institution that enables the managers or staff to view every inmate in the building, enabling a smaller workforce and thus lowering costs. His ‘Panopticon’ concept never came into being during his lifetime, and no true Panopticon prisons have ever been built according to his exact designs; the closest is the now-abandoned Presidio Modelo in Cuba (pictured).

Danish State Prison

(images via: dezeen)

A new state prison will soon be built on the island of Falster in Denmark which is laid out like a small village and emphasize work and leisure activities as well as green spas. Danish architects C.F. Møller have made the prison bright and airy with large windows and skylights. A network of streets connect inmate housing to administration buildings, a library, a worship room, sports facilities and a shop.

Juvenile Pavilion

(images via: archdaily)

Believing that wayward youth will benefit from a connection to nature, UArchitects have given the Juvenile Pavilion in The Netherlands an earthy, organic feel with an open structure wrapped in slatted wood. Instead of a dark, enclosed prison, the facility is transparent, maintaining a lifeline to the outside world that reminds the residents that their stay is not permanent.

The Creative Prison

(images via: subtopia)

How does the design of prisons inform their effectiveness? That’s the question that architect Will Alsop asked when he teamed up with activist arts group Rideout for the Creative Prison Project in 2006. The collaboration produced concept art for a ‘fantasy prison’ that was driven, in part, by the ideas of inmates who were asked how they would improve the prison environment. The results emphasize rehabilitation and education, allowing the prisoner population to live in college campus-like ‘modules’ and interact with the outside world. Each prisoner block would include a communal kitchen, common room and enclosed garden.

Port Arthur ‘Separate’ Prison

(images via: architecture.com)

On the darker side of prison design are facilities like the notoriously inhumane ‘Separate’ prison in Port Arthur, Australia. The Victorian concept of placing prisoners in extremely solitary environments, which certainly did nothing to contribute to their mental stability, is precisely the sort of cruel punishment that many of these modern ideas are pushing against. The Port Arthur Separate Prison in particular was an experimental facility of silence and strict control.

World’s Smallest Prison

(image via: zentner)

This particular facility isn’t modern, futuristic or revolutionary, but it’s definitely interesting. The smallest jail in the world fits just two prisoners. Sark Prison is found on the Island of Sark in the English Channel; it’s still used for overnight stays despite its diminutive size and lack of permanent staff. Anyone requiring more than a single night’s lockup is sent to a more standard prison on another part of the island.

LEED-Certified Butner Federal Prison

(image via: mnn.com)

The North Carolina facility where notorious scammer Bernie Madoff is living out the remaining years of his life is UK’s one and only LEED-Certified prison, meaning it has met the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards for sustainable design. Bicycle storage, alternative fuel stations, water-smart landscaping, optimized energy performance and reduced greenhouse gas emissions are among its notable features. You might imagine that this kind of eco-friendly design would be more expensive and thus, not a great example for other cash-strapped prisons around the country to follow, but that’s not the case. The measures taken to make the building so efficient and green have actually helped the facility save money.

Bastoy Island Eco Prison

(images via: bastoyfengsel.no)

“Is Bastoy the place for you?” asks the Bastoy Island website beside idyllic photographs of sunsets, snow and sleigh-pulling horses. You’d better hope not, unless you’ve committed some kind of crime, because this place is not a resort, it’s a prison – though you’d never know that looking at it. Bastoy Island is an experimental minimum-security ‘eco prison’ where 115 ‘residents’ eat organic food and enjoy cross-country skiing, tennis and other activities once they have completed their mandatory hard labor on the farm. The prison warden says that this place is such a nice place to live, he worries more about all of the curious outsiders who find their way onto the property than about inmates escaping.

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Urbanism. ]

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Our next stop was South Jutland, Denmark.

We got into Legoland for free for 30 minutes.
Best half hour EVER!
Check out our previous Lego posts

Some ancient rune stone typography

Beware of dessert in Denmark!

We went drinking with a pirate called Klaus. This is his boat.

Check out Part 3 tomorrow where we travelled to Copenhagen!


If all high school, college and university campuses looked like this, attendance rates would skyrocket. Some may argue that it’s what’s inside that’s important, but there’s no reason for school buildings to be bland, boring boxes. From a big open high school where students lounge on big pillows all day to a university building created by Frank Gehry, these 15 incredible campus building designs may just inspire a whole new generation of innovative architects.

Ørestad High School, Copenhagen




(images via: Concept Trends)

Looking at this campus in the new Copenhagen suburb of Ørestad, it’s hard to imagine not wanting to go to school. Ørestad College – the Danish equivalent to a high school – has an open, modern design with colorful transparent glass shades that liven up its boxy exterior and rotate automatically with the sun. The interior is full of swirling staircases and platforms upon which students lounge on big orange pillows.

Green Roof Art School in Singapore



(images via: Inhabitat)

One of the most amazing green roofs in the world is at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. From a distance, you can barely even tell that the 5-story structure is a building, it blends in so well with its environment. A plethora of glass walls allow plenty of natural light to illuminate the interior, and the grassy roof is used as a meeting space for students. The green roof also insulates the building, cools the surrounding air and harvests rainwater for landscape irrigation.

Modern High School #9 in Central LA



(images via: Design Boom)

It looks more like an avant garde art museum design, but this uber-contemporary building by the Austrian design firm Coop Himmelb(l)au in Central Los Angeles is actually a public high school. High School #9 for the visual and performing arts holds 1,800 students and features an interior theatre that can seat 1,000.

Gehry-Designed Stata Center at MIT


(images via: EECS)

The Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences at MIT was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, and it shows. The lively building features Gehry’s signature adventurous, surrealist style with tilting towers, unusually angled walls and whimsical shapes. The building houses classrooms, research facilities, fitness facilities, a childcare center and a large auditorium.

New York University’s Department of Philosophy Interior


(images via: Dezeen)

You would never guess, looking at the elegant yet unremarkable historic exterior of NYU’s Department of Philosophy, what was housed inside. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the renovated interior features white walls and a seemingly complex set of stairs edged with perforated railings that cast interesting patterns of light around the building. The light effect changes according to the seasons and time of day.

Victorian College of the Arts School of Drama


(images via: Architecture.com.au)

Most of the buildings that make up the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia are stately and historic. Then, you come across the façade of the School of Drama, designed by Castles Stephenson + Turner Pty Ltd / Edmond & Corrigan. The unique, colorful design makes it clear that this is a place of creativity.

Arcadia University’s Grey Towers Castle



(images via: Road Less Trvled)

In contrast to the many modern school designs featured here is the Grey Towers Castle of Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania. The castle was built starting in 1893 as the estate of William Welsh Harrison, and was acquired by the university in 1929. The castle is rumored to have secret passages behind the fireplaces as well as a series of underground tunnels built to connect the main house to stables and outbuildings. It now contains various offices, including that of the President, as well as student residences.

Oppenheim’s Miami-Dade College Campus



(images via: Yanko Design)

The concept for Miami-Dade College on Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami would add a lot of reflective shimmer and interest to the city’s skyline. Designed by Oppenheim Architects, the glittering glass and steel tower has an unusual shape with an interior grassy corridor. It’s projected to be completed in 2012.

Concrete and Glass Gateway Building at MICA


(images via: Architect Magazine)

The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has long been known for its eclectic mix of buildings, and its newest one is definitely a head-turner. The Gateway building, which sits on the edge of the campus, successfully met the challenge of difficult site constraints and wide-ranging functions. The drum-shaped building with an interior landscaped courtyard houses a lobby/gallery, theater, career center, café, student residences and artist studios.

Bold, Contemporary Metzo College in the Netherlands



(images via: Dezeen)

The new Metzo College, located in Doetinchem, a City in the East of the Netherlands, is a compact pyramid-shaped building with a scooped-out core containing gardens. Designed to leave as much open space around it as possible, the 6-story building functions as a vocational school as well as public sport facilities.

Henning Larsen University Campus Concept in Kolding, Denmark



(images via: Archicentral)

The Danish firm Henning Larsen won a competition for a university campus in Kolding, Denmark with this airy, open concept design along the Østerbrogade river. It features an exterior screen that is meant to allow sunlight to pass through to the banks of the river and is situated in a triangular fashion rather than parallel to the river. It will contain a large, open atrium, public café, offices and classrooms.

Napier University’s Futuristic Lecture Theater


(images via: Edinburgh Architecture)

The amorphic design of Napier University’s lecture theater has earned it nicknames like the Napier Egg and the Bike Light. The oval lecture theatre, which buts up to the historic 19th century university building, features one wall made entirely of glass.

Rafael Arozarena High School, La Orotava, Spain



(images via: Niki Omahe)

Rafael Arozarena High School is located near the historic town center of La Orotava, Spain and blends in perfectly with its surroundings, which include city buildings and farming terraces. Designed by AMP Arquitectos, the school’s concrete exterior has been softened with a degraded wash of different tones which create a smooth transition between the urban city and the rural farmland.

Bikuben Student Residence, University of Copenhagen


(images via: Best House Design)

Called the ‘student residence of the future’, the Bikuben residence building at the University of Copenhagen certainly is unlike any other student residence hall. Concrete, metal and the glass of the windows create a sort of monochromatic mosaic effect punctuated with bright shocks of orange paint.  Within the building, the residences and the common rooms are connected in a double spiral surrounding an atrium.

Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham


(images via: Hopkins Architects)

A former bicycle factory site has been transformed beautifully into an academic park for 2,500 students. Wood, steel and glass buildings sit on the edge of a tranquil man-made lake, and a colonnade on the front of the building forms the pedestrian route through the site. Restaurants, shops and atria are on the bottom level, while faculty rooms take up the upper levels. The campus’ most notable buildings are the circular Learning Resource Center and conical lecture halls.

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