Design and Violence

HALDEN PRISON

Erik Møller and HLM Architects, 2010

Rehabilitation over revenge*

While Halden Prison in Norway is a high-security facility that houses 250 of Norway’s toughest criminals, it is also one of the world’s most humane prisons. It was designed in response to a competition initiated by the Norwegian government, with a central design requirement that it should contribute to rehabilitation and decrease relapses into criminal behaviour. The winning design incorporates long, vertical windows that maximise the light entering the cells, and the green surroundings are easily viewed through generous windows in common areas. The architects state that, “nature is actively involved as a social rehabilitative factor in the architecture… the opportunity to follow seasonal changes helps to clarify the passage of time for the inmates”. Although simple, the interior furnishings are modern and inviting, with safety glass used instead of bars. Shared living and food-preparation spaces are included to encourage cooperation between inmates and — given the maximum prison sentence in Norway is 21 years — to simulate a sense of normal, everyday life to prepare for their release.

*this is from a quote by the prison’s governor as reported in The Guardian

Imagery courtesy of Erik Møller Architects, Copenhagen, Denmark (est. 1935) and HLM Architects AS, Bergen, Norway (est. 1999).