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Is this the world’s most humane prison?

The C.F. Møller-designed prison’s architecture supports the inmates’ and staff’s mental and physical well-being.

December 11, 2017 |
Storstroem Prison

Photo: Torben Eskerod

The design of the new Storstrøm Prison in Gundslev, Denmark echoes the structure and scale of a small provincial community to stimulate the urge and ability to rejoin society after serving a prison sentence. The prison, described by project architect C.F. Møller as “the world’s most humane prison,” is designed to accommodate around 250 inmates.

The prison includes four standard prison wings and one maximum-security wing. Also included are a visitors’ unit, an activity building, a gate building, and a staff building. There are a total of 10 buildings on the site that cover a total floorspace of about 35,000 sm. The buildings form a small urban community, complete with streets, squares, and centrally located community buildings.


Photo: Torben Eskerod.


Cells are gathered in units of four to seven cells arranged around a social hub. The cell units have access to a living room area and a shared kitchen, where the inmates prepare their own meals. Living rooms are decorated in colors that are “less institutional” and structurally integrated artwork can be found throughout.

Each 12.8-sm cell is equipped with two windows, one small and one that spans the full cell height, that allow daylight to enter the space. The cells are designed with curved walls so prison staff can view most of the cell from the door. Cells contain a bed, desk, chair, wardrobe, refrigerator, television, and lighting. The furniture has been designed specifically for the cells and reduces the number of sharp corners.


A cell in Storstroem PrisonPhoto: Torben Eskerod.


The prison buildings surround a large soccer field and running track at the center of the facility. The nearby activity building has badminton, basketball, soccer, and handball courts. The maximum security wing includes an additional two small gym halls and each cell department has its own fitness room (the maximum security wing is surrounded by a wall and inmates and prison staff are physically separated).

The health and safety of the prison staff was also taken seriously in the design of Storstrøm Prison. The architecture provides vantage points for staff where they can oversee a complete floor of a cell department with a wide field of vision in several directions. Secure rooms and escape routes have also been included so staff can quickly assemble and maintain order.


Basketball courts at Storstrom PrisonPhoto: Torben Eskerod.


The exterior design of each of the buildings incorporates recessed facades and angular roofs to minimize the institutionalized appearance. The façade alternates between light-colored bricks and a composite material of concrete and galvanized steel. The five wings, the visitors’ department, and the gateway building are brick while the activity building has concrete panels and glass facing. The workshop building has steel panel facing combined with concrete.


A church at Sotrstrom PrisonPhoto: Torben Eskerod.

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