OOIIO Architecture recently has designed the Female Prison in Iceland.
How to build a prison that doesn’t look like a prison?
For designing this project we decided to start asking to people that lives and work on real prisons. That was the first step on the design process!. And we end up with the conclusion that the worse thing of living on a prison is to have the feeling that you are actually on a prison.
So we decided to design a prison that doesn’t look like a prison, forgetting about dark spaces, small cells, and ugly grey concrete walls.
On the contrary, we based the building design on the natural light, open spaces, and natural green materials like peat, grass and flowers.
Also, instead of packing all the program on a singular big building that could remember a typical repressive old prison, we decided to break it on several small and more human scale connected pavilions.
A prison is a building with a complex and rich program, is like a small village, with hospital, schools, church, theater, etc. that must work precisely, and at the same time the building must host 3 different types of inhabitants: prisoners, prison workers and occasional visitors. Each of those users have a very specific circulations and building areas where they can or cannot use.
So when we were thinking on the building we had the feeling that we were designing the cogs of a big watch, a building like a gear assembly, were all the pieces must be on the right place to make it efficient and functional, but with the best possible relation with the natural light and the exterior views, to increase the freedom feeling.
The construction process will be cheap, quick and clean. We will use a prefabricated concrete panels system that will allow to build everything on a short time, with low carbon emissions, and low cost, which would be carefully designed to generate the highest level of natural light on the interior (important for a country like Iceland with short sun hours along the year), and able to hold a interesting natural façade.
Studying the construction tradition in Iceland for design the building, we discover a very interesting and clever way of getting cheap isolations system for buildings that the Iceland inhabitants used on the past for farms and remote buildings. They cover their wooden buildings with a thick peat layer, which is very common in this country, and let the grass to grow over it, so after some weeks they generate a perfect ecological cold isolation that works really good for the hard Icelandic weather. We though on a contemporary reinterpretation for this façade concept.
We designed metal cages that would be full of peat, that could be moved and placed on site quickly, to be hold all around the prison facades. On this cages we would plant different local flowers and grass, so we will generate a cheap green wall, based on the Icelandic tradition, but contemporary, prefabricated for easier construction, that changes with the seasons, making the life on the prison less monotonous and more human and natural related.
+ Project facts
Project Name: Female Prison in Iceland.
Location: Reykjavik, Iceland.
Area: 9000 m2.
Architect: OOIIO Architecture
Project Team: Joaquin Millan Villamuelas, Cristina Viacario, Belen Gomez, Lurdes Martinez, Javier Urrutia, Ignacio Jimeno, Kristinn Olafsonn.