Holmsheidi by Compagnie O Architects

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Holmsheidi Compagnie O Architects

Project: Holmsheidi
Designed by Compagnie O Architects
Area: 3 700 m2
Location: Reykjavik, Iceland
Website: compagnie-o.be
Holmsheidi project in Reykjavik designed by Belgium based Compagnie O Architects, is a unique project for a women's prison exploring possibilities of the criminal individual's reintegration in the society. 

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From the Architects:

The imprisonment of people is perhaps the best kept taboo within our modern society. Depriving the criminal individual of freedom is understandable and broadly recognized/accepted, an effect of society’s mechanism to protect ourselves. But when the question of adjustment and reintegration arises, effect turns into affect. Ideologies and politics take over and instigate a never-ending flux of visions, reflecting society’s incapability to establish a coherent concept on how a prisoner could re-turn to The Society.

Architecture has an ambiguous role in this play. By fencing-in, detaining and controlling a minority, it generates freedom for the majority. But can it at the same time also facilitate freedom within the confinement? Thus introducing a possibility of reintegration of the criminal individual into society’s freedom?

We do punish people with architecture.
The building is the method, detainment and punishment is the goal.
This proposal is highly aware of this ‘raison d’être’ of the prison, but at the same time criticizes and rejects the unilateral functional approach.

A prison is per definition a highly functional piece of architecture, an economic machinery producing safety, for all.
The proposal postulates this as a conditio sine qua non. All the cells are situated on the first floor, leaving ground floor for communal activities, staff and visitors. The rooftop is conceived as a communal outdoor space in extension to the individualized patio per division.

In the Holmheidi proposal, the idea of the fortress and control through the static panopoticon is radically challenged.
The image of the monumental solid walled fortress with a few barred openings shifts to an open mesh. Still round, defining in and out, the former solid walls are unraveled to a mesh of tilted holes, like a woven tissue around a naked (vulnerable) body.
This shift alters society’s view of the prison as an anonymous building. Outside has to deal with inside, still behind a screen, but recognizable and present.

On the inside, the prisoners gaze is being liberated form the centripetal force of the panoptical eye in the center. The field of view is free and randomized in all directions: perspective, wide-angled, overall-views and reflections, both to the inside and to the surrounding landscape.

The circular ground plan and the fully glazed inner court provide the guards with a 360 vision on all levels. 
This ‘mesh of gaze’ coincides with the ‘openness of mind’ throughout the prison.