EGM architects | B2Ai architects - Prison village Haren (Belgium), a true revolution in the way we approach detention
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Prison village Haren (Belgium), a true revolution in the way we approach detention

EGM architects | B2Ai architects

Mixed Use  /  Completed
EGM architects | B2Ai architects

Innovative village-like layout.

The main principle behind the concept is the realisation of a more humane detention climate. To do this, an innovative layout and design was developed for the new prison. Instead of one large building (e.g. star-shaped Ducpétiaux), the layout of Haren consists of various smaller buildings, each distinctive and containing a different function.

A more humane detention.

The village-like design has identifiable buildings made of various colours of brick, a central square, a main building (with a bell tower), a hospital, sports fields and a kitchen garden. Altogether, it offers a much more humane appearance. It also offers the possibility for an innovative way of working. Staff and detainees have many more opportunities for normalisation and empowerment.

Located between the city and airport of Brussels, the terrain is slightly sloping. This was cleverly exploited in the design: height differences make the terrain more pleasant for prisoners, who have a view of the outside world, and also the underground corridor system is more easily integrated.

Neighbouring villages.

Clever building positioning leave sightlines to neighbouring villages intact. Buildings with different functions are individually recognisable as such, referring to its surroundings. They differ in style, size, brickwork and colour just like in the adjacent village. The concept works not only from inside to outside, but also from outside to inside: neighbouring residents can recreate and stay around the site without the whole thing appearing unfriendly or even threatening.

The design of the prison village earned a BREEAM Very Good certificate. A range of energy-saving measures include solar panels, sedum roofs, 37,000m² of planted greenery, a ground source heat pump and energy generation with a cogeneration plant (which uses residual heat to heat the water). The prison consumes 77% less mains water than average owing to a combination of a grey water system and water recycling.

Even during construction the design accommodated functional changes. The urban planning model offers the possibility of reallocation if the situation calls for it. Buildings can be used for different (social) purposes because of the smart positioning and linking of the buildings on the site and the well-considered balance between structural elements and flexible interiors.

Reduced recidivism.

Life within the walls correspond as much as possible with life on the outside: a normal and humane environment. This increases the chances of successful resocialization and a significant reduction in the level of recidivism in Belgium. Instead of one large building, the prison village consists of various smaller buildings, each distinctive and with a different function. The complex (max. 1,190 inmates) accommodates various types of detainees: male, female (some with children), youths, psychiatric patients and serious criminals. They live together in small units of max. 35 people. Everything is geared towards a well-operating system for both staff / detainees. As a result, staff can be much more than simply guards who open/close doors. They coach and support detainees in how they spend their days with work, relaxation and learning. Security staff in the units are called detention supervisors who have received additional training in areas such as group dynamism.


The familiar typology reflects the small-scale character in size and materials, it creates a pleasant working / residential climate. The normal and friendlier environment stimulates good behaviour, a more humane approach to the detainees and more pleasant working environment for staff. Inmates are initially given liberties that are only taken away on bad behaviour. The starting point is positive. The new prison village is a giant step forward for the Belgian prison system.

The realisation of Haren prison is a true revolution in the way we approach detention. The focus is on a human approach, teaching detainees to live together and letting them take responsibility. This building is a flagship in our prison system. Vincent Van Quickenborne, Minister for Justice in Belgium Paradoxically, there is a lot of small scale in the prison. Detainees are housed in a number of smaller living units that are relatively autonomous. Jurgen Van Poecke, Head of Brussel prison


 Haren, Brussels
 Cafasso NV (Design Build Finance Maintain consortium) on behalf of the acting client Federal Buildings Authority in Belgium
 116.000 mq
 EGM: E. Fokkema, A. van Schaik, E. Pijnacker, G. Vos, M. van Vugt, W. Breedveld, T. van Bokstel, J. Bothof, A. van Die, D. Groenendijk, J. Heskens, D. Slijkoord, D. Schram, A. Tromp, T. Bakker, O. Picón, J. de Jong, R. Nijwening, N. de Hart, O. Atrek | B2Ai: A. Annaert, S. Lucas, P. Vermoortel
 Architects: EGM architects, B2Ai Architects
 Denys nv, Belgium | FCC Construcción sa, Spain
 Constructor: VK Engineering | Mechanical engineering: VK Engineering | Acoustics advisor: MACOBO STABO | Advisor other: Smits Van Burgst Beveiliging BV
 Philippe van Gelooven | Global View (aerial)


EGM architects has pioneered a sustainable and proactive approach to architecture for almost 50 years. The result is a wide range of distinctive spaces and places for health care, government, education, research, community and business across the world.
We combine beauty with functionality. A building should be attractive, but primarily it should support processes and make people feel comfortable. We design for the people using the building.

B2Ai architects stands for a passionate team of structural and technical engineers, interior architects and urban planners in Brussels, Ghent and Roeselare. The office has expertise and references in (health) care, schools, sports halls, public swimming pools, nurseries, companies, offices as well as residential projects and mixed-use programmes. With its experience in both the public and private sector, B2Ai architects is a strong partner for Design & Build or PPP projects.


#Finalist #Green Roof  #Belgium  #BIM  #Brick cladding  #Multifunctional Building - Complex  #Architectural concrete  #EGM architects | B2Ai architects 

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