[ 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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Flying may be one of the safest methods of transportation but it doesn’t always look that way, especially when flying in and out of certain airports. These 10 air travel destinations challenge the skill of pilots, the structure of aircraft, and the underwear of passengers.

Tioman Island Airport, Tioman Island, Malaysia

(images via: Skyscraper City and Birdseye)

You may not have heard of Tioman Island (known locally as Gunung Daik Bercabang Tiga) but likely you’ve seen it on TV or at a movie theater: “Bali Hai” in the 1956 film South Pacific was actually Tioman Island. This beautiful tropic isle lies off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, due east of Kuala Lumpur and roughly north-northeast of Singapore.

(images via: Cuti.com and Malaysiasite)

Berjaya Air operates 2- and 4-engine turboprop planes capable – barely – of negotiating the single 3,254ft (992m) runway at Tioman Island Airport. Pilots must first set their planes on a heading directly into a mountain range, with the pilot then performing a 90 degree turn to line up the runway. Late touchdowns are ill-advised as overshooting the runway means plunging off a sheer cliff.

(image via: AOL Travel)

Tioman Landing, via LoXoBaBy

Takeoffs are relatively uneventful at Tioman Airport, it’s the landings that give passengers the willies – the crew as well: in the video above, check out everyone wearing life jackets as the plane makes its (hopefully not) final approach!

Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

(images via: Behind Blondie Park, Robert Accettura and Aeroclipper Video)

Originally constructed as a military airport during World War II, Princess Juliana International Airport today serves as the main hub for the smaller island destinations of the Caribbean. Takeoffs from the airport require quick reflexes as a sharp turn must be made immediately after becoming airborne, so as not to slam into the mountains.

(image via: Repeating Islands)

Landings are much more peaceful… for the passengers. Huge airliners including 747 jumbo jets fly so low over Maho Beach on their approach it seems a wonder bikini-clad vacationers don’t get sucked into the engines.

(image via: Popular Mechanics)

KLM landt op SXM, via Kindofblue01

Oh to be in the video above: you’ve saved up your money, arrived on St. Maarten, and now at last you’re relaxing on the sands of Maho Beach. Could anything interrupt the peace and quiet of this dreamy tropical paradise? Did you really have to ask?

JFK International Airport (Runway 13L), New York, USA

(images via: SWIP Online and NYC Aviation)

The busiest international airport in the United States, on a list of the world’s most dangerous airports?? Believe it, though JFK Airport’s Runway 13L is the one in the spotlight here. Approach to the runway leaves little room for error, as Jamaica Bay looms on the right and the surrounding wetlands offer no safe harbor. As well, pilots have only 5 miles of visibility owing to a circular approach pattern required to avoid any aircraft arriving/departing from La Guardia or Newark.

(image via: Vsetky Videa)

Landing at New York JFK from Cockpit B747, via SuredT

Check out a video of a jumbo jet landing on JFK’s Runway 13L, above. Currently Runway 13R-13L is undergoing a series of upgrades and improvements designed to better accommodate Group VI aircraft including the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8. One of these upgrades involves widening the runway from 150 feet to 200 feet – approach procedures will remain the same, however, and may prove to be even more challenging for the pilots and crews of these larger jets.

Toncontin Airport, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

(images via: East Lake Honduras, Jaunted and Adi’s Reiseblog)

Runway 13L at JFK is 14,572 feet (4,442 m) long… compare that with the runway at Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa, capital of the Central UKn country of Honduras: just 6,112 feet (1,862 m) in length. The shortness of the runway makes landings by any jets larger than a Boeing 757 impossible; those by smaller jets are merely improbable.

(image via: Pensieve)

Toncontin has a number of strikes against it. It’s situated in a valley 3,294 feet (1,004 m) above sea level, surrounded by mountains. Forget to buy travel insurance? Too late for that… but not too late to pray.

(image via: Popular Mechanics)

Tegucigalpa, Honduras Toncontin airport landing, via Roysf

In the above video shot by a cameraman perched on the rim of the valley, the pilot of a large passenger jet begins his quick descent into the bowl-shaped valley where Toncontin Airport lies after conducting a last-minute 45-degree bank to line the runway up. The passengers shouldn’t complain overly much – they got transportation into Tegucigalpa plus a roller-coaster ride at no extra cost.

Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Lukla, Nepal

(images via: Grough, Burbia, AMD300466 and Himalayan Trust)

From bad to worse: Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal, is named for the first two mountain climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. That should ring a few warning bells. The airport operates at an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 m) and has virtually no modern air traffic control features – not even lights, and very little electric power at all.

(image via: Govteen)

Situated on the only semi-flat land in the region – the runway slopes at a 12 degree angle – the airport only allows daytime landings by Yeti Airlines, whose pilots are expected to be familiar with the conditions.

(image via: Freaky Chinaman)

Lukla Airport Landing & Takeoff, via Skynewton

The above video clip shows a typical landing at Tenzing-Hillary Airport… definitely nothing to “yak” at.

Only Footage of the Lukla (Nepal) Crash, via Antanadar

Even Yeti Airlines has trouble flying into the airport on occasion, especially when low-lying clouds reduce visibility to next to nothing. The above astonishing video was taken by a German tourist and shows a Yeti Airlines plane crashing as the result of a too-low runway approach.

Gibraltar Airport, Gibraltar

(images via: Aloqmalai and Brusentsov)

Gibralter Airport also has a very short runway, just 6,000 feet (1,828 m). If you thought Gibralter was the Rock and not much else, you’re mostly right – the runway is squeezed between the Mediterranean Sea and the immense, unyielding fastness of the Rock of Gibralter.

(image via: SMH)

Adding to passengers’ anxieties is the fact that the weather around Gibralter is often poor, forcing incoming jets to divert to Malaga, Spain or Tangier, Morocco. I’m guessing most passengers hope for bad weather.

(image via: Izismile)

One of the odd things about Gibralter Airport is that a main road cuts across one of the main runways. When planes need to take off or land, bells, whistles and a barrier come down to stop traffic much in the manner of a railroad crossing.

Airbus A-320 landing in Gibraltar airport, via Ciosu

The above video gives one a strong impression of just how big the Rock of Gibralter really is, and, how close it is to the airport. Looks like you could reach out and touch it… but don’t, because the pilots have enough on their minds as it is.

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba, Netherlands Antilles

(images via: Govteen and Medical Student)

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is the only airport on Saba, the Caribbean island of Saba, the smallest island of the Netherlands Antilles. Saba’s land area is dominated by Mount Scenery, whose 2,877 ft (877 m) height makes it the highest point in The Netherlands, period. Heck of a place to put an airport, but they did anyway.

(image via: Gearth)

At only 1,300 feet (396 m) in length, the runway at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is too short for passenger jets and if your pilot has to circle around a few times before landing, bear in mind that aviation fuel is not available on the island.

(image via: Wikimedia)

Landing in Saba, via Moustik971

The runway at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is bordered by sea cliffs on three sides and mountain slopes on the fourth. Though many aviation experts consider the airport to be one of the world’s most dangerous, its record shows no accidents or even incidents… yet.

Madeira Airport, Funchal, Canary Islands

(images via: Hubpages, SWIP Online and Structurae)

The two main runways at Madeira Airport (colloquially known as Funchal Airport) were just 5,250 feet (1,600 m) long when the airport opened for business in 1964.

(image via: Hubpages)

After a horrifying 1977 crash in which a Boeing 727 landed long, smashed through a stone bridge and ended up on the beach, one runway was extended by 655 feet (200 m). In 2003 the runway was further lengthened by extending it over the beach on 180 columns, each standing 230 feet (70 m) tall.

(image via: Forocoches)

Landing at Madeira Airport, via Joebarcz

Lengthened or not, the basic approach to Madeira Airport remains tricky even for experienced pilots as the video above illustrates. Against their better instincts, pilots must first aim the aircraft directly at a looming mountain peak, then quickly bank to the right in order to avoid crashing into the mountain – which puts them on a heading to the runway. And, lengthened or not, overshooting the runway and keeping your feet dry is NOT an option.

Courchevel Airport, Courchevel, France

(images via: A-T-S and Flightlevel350)

Fancy a ski vacation in the French Alps? Then consider driving to Courchevel… seriously. First off, the runway at Courchevel Airport is exceedingly short: just 1,722 feet (525 m). Second of all, not one of those 1,722 feet (525 m) is flat.

(image via: Binscorner)

Taking off is a hair-raising (and whitening) event that sees most aircraft going “over the hump” before their wings finally grab air at the last possible moment. The airport’s motto should be, “At Courchevel, you’ll hit the slopes before you’ve even reached the terminal.”

(image via: MWhitehouse)

Beech Baron landing at Courchevel Airport, France, via Fjghy

Landings at Courchevel Airport are even dicier, as the above video scarifyingly indicates. You’ll be reaching for your parachute whether or not you’re actually on the plane.

Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong

(images via: Govteen, Henry Tenby and WFMU)

Kai Tak, the Mother Of All Scary Airports, has closed… words that should be spoken in the same awed yet gleeful tone of voice as “Ding, dong, the witch is dead!” Having personally flown into Kai Tak Airport twice during trips to Japan via Hong Kong, and having been warned of the airport’s extreme urban character beforehand, I still wasn’t prepared for the sight of apartment blocks and laundry lines practically lining Runway 13. How those peoples’ clothes didn’t reek from jet exhaust, I’ll never know.

(image via: Letters Home)

Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport (1925 – 1998), via Bigeyedchicken

The above mindboggling, must-see video shows a variety of big jets performing the necessary skin-of-their-teeth aerobatics required to make a pinpoint landing at Kai Tak – and there’s no other type of landing possible. According to Wikipedia, “The low altitude maneuver required to line up with the runway was so spectacular that some passengers claimed to have glimpsed the flickering of televisions through apartment windows along the final approach.” The video closes with the final message sent from the airport as it closed, “Goodbye Kai Tak, and thank you.”

(image via: Xiongdudu)

Still ready to fly the friendly skies? Sure you are… besides, there’s nothing scary in the skies themselves; it’s the getting there (and back) that tend to get the heart pounding. Especially if you’re taking off or landing at one of these 10 “scare-ports”.


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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