499.SUMMIT Reimagines U.S. Prisons

Courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch

With the guidance of their instructor Matthias Hollwich, students Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch from ’s School of Design have proposed an alternative to the traditional prisons seen throughout the United States. The innovative high-rise penitentiary acknowledges the fact that nearly two-thirds of the 14,000 inmates released annually from New Jersey correctional facilities will return to prison within five years. 499.SUMMIT offers a solution that intends to reverse that statistic and help inmates successfully transition back into society.

Continue after the break for more.

Courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch

Project Description provided by Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch:

The US prison system has failed to see advancements throughout the past century and desperately requires innovation and re-imagination. While recent literature begins to question the sociological impact of prisons, there has been little exploration of the physical apparatus in which inmates are housed.

Courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch

499.SUMMIT is the outcome of a critical look into these static institutions. It proposed to challenges all preconceived notions of the word “prison”, and re-imagines the high-rise as an urban penitentiary. The massing consists of three towers in the shape of an arch. The inherent linear and formal qualities of the ‘arch’ allowed for the overall circulatory concept: Up, over, down. Each arch has three primary phases, Incarceration (up), Transformation (over), and Integration (down). The arches begin isolated during the incarceration phase and merge together both physically and programmatically during the integration phase. As the inmates graduate through the facility, they are being exposed to an increasing degree of social interaction, to make the transition back into society as soft as possible. To catalyst this process, public program and residential housing are introduced in the integration phase downwards.

Courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch
Courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch
Courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch
Courtesy of Andreas Tjeldflaat and Greg Knobloch
Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "499.SUMMIT Reimagines U.S. Prisons" 13 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=225905>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Great work guys, you’re lucky to have Matthias guiding you on this a frustrating and daunting program. This example gives us hope that there can be a constructive approach to prison design. I’ve always said I’d never design a prison, but after seeing this new direction, there is certainly a compelling argument for revisiting this. This project is an provocative example of how to somehow ‘filter’ people back into society, rehabilitated and healthy, with a healthy outlook, hopefully reducing recidivism literally ‘block by block’.

    Well done.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +7

    Putting this much effort into better rehabilitating prisoners so they can once again become productive citizens in society is a great idea. Putting this much effort into designing an interesting looking building for prisoners is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +8

    Way to make a prison look like a prison…

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    I feel like they had good goals, but completely missed the mark in their design. The building appears as a stark, cold, and dangerous place. Certainly not something the public would like to see looming above their city, let alone come to visit and interact with the prisoners. Perhaps try adding some windows and colour!

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    I guess their proposal is quite interesting,but as jeremy said,they completely missed the mark.There is no evidence/drawings to show how the spaces work inside.Its great to propose innovative changes to prisons..but how do these ‘reforms’ take place.All we see is a form,but no function.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    This is a very unique idea, but how do we know that it will even work? How do we know that people being exposed to certain degrees of social interaction will be “transformed” ? I feel as if architects try to impersonate sociologist most of the time…

  7. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    you know those times when something can get it so wrong that you don’t even know where to begin? this is one of those times.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Although the author’s purpose is great , but the towering and icy tone does not produce peace and happiness , so I am not very optimistic about this design

  9. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    How did these kids get on archdaily? I’m sure there are plenty of design students that are much more deserving of an archdaily post.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I don’t get it. Did these students actually do any research on prisons or on the negative sociological and psychological impact that living in high-rises has been proven to have on the human mind? Especially on those with preexisting conditions? I thought the design goal was to reduce recidivism, not engender it…

  11. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    I think the presented materials look very nice, but I agree with the other comments – this is an unpleasent looking building. It reminds me of something out of a dystopian science fiction movie.

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