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From Prisons to Parks: How the US Can Capitalize On Its Declining Prison Populations

Prisons are often seen as problematic for their local communities. After centuries of correctional facilities discouraging economic growth and occupying valuable real estate as a necessary component of towns and cities, many of these institutions have been relocated away from city centers and their abandoned vestiges are left as unpleasant reminders of their former use. In fact, the majority of prisons built in the United States since 1980 have been placed in non-metropolitan areas and once served as a substantial economic development strategy in depressed rural communities. [1] However, a new pressure is about to emerge on the US prison systems: beginning in 2010, America's prison population declined for the first time in decades, suggesting that in the near future repurposing these structures will become a particularly relevant endeavor for both community development and economic sustainability. These abandoned shells offer architects valuable opportunities to reimagine programmatic functions and transform an otherwise problematic location into an integral neighborhood space.

Why repurpose prisons rather than starting fresh? The answer to this question lies in the inherent architectural features of the prison typology, namely the fact that these structures are built to last. People also often forget that prison buildings are not limited to low-rise secure housing units - in fact, prisons feature an array of spaces that have great potential for reuse including buildings for light industrial activity, training or office buildings, low-security housing, and large outdoor spaces. These elements offer a wide variety of real estate for new programmatic uses, and cities around the world have begun to discover their potential. What could the US learn from these examples, at home and overseas?

The Former Bangalore jail in India, now Freedom Park . Image © Flickr CC user abhisheksundaram Boston's Liberty Hotel Interior. Image © Flickr CC user adewale_oshineye Aerial view of the former Lorton Prison. Image via Bing Maps Freedom Park in Lagos, Nigeria. Image via lagosfreedompark.com

The Library House / Khosla Associates

  • Architects: Khosla Associates
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Principal Designers : Sandeep Khosla, Amaresh Anand
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Shamanth Patil J.

© Shamanth Patil J. © Shamanth Patil J. © Shamanth Patil J. © Shamanth Patil J.

Wilson Garden House / Architecture Paradigm

  • Architects: Architecture Paradigm
  • Location: Wilson Garden, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Design Team: Sandeep J, Vimal Jain, Manoj Ladhad, Savitha
  • Area: 7000.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2011
  • Photographs: Anand Jaju

© Anand Jaju © Anand Jaju © Anand Jaju © Anand Jaju

Loft 38 / Khosla Associates

  • Architects: Khosla Associates
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Principal Designers: Sandeep Khosla, Amaresh Anand
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Shamath Patil J.

© Shamath Patil J. © Shamath Patil J. © Shamath Patil J. © Shamath Patil J.

Lateral House / Gaurav Roy Choudhury

  • Architects: Gaurav Roy Choudhury
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Contractors: LISA and Ravikumar, Plumbtech Engineers, ACHU P. Enterprises
  • Area: 3600.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Tina Nandi

© Tina Nandi © Tina Nandi © Tina Nandi © Tina Nandi

The Long House / Khosla Associates

  • Architects: Khosla Associates
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Principal Designers: Sandeep Khosla and Amaresh Anand
  • Design Team: Sandeep Khosla, Amaresh Anand, Raju S. and Akanksha Chhajer
  • Civil Contractors: J.J. Constructions Pvt. Ltd
  • Landscape: Garden World Pvt. Ltd
  • Phe Consultant: JR Consultancy
  • Electrical Contractor: MK Electricals
  • Electrical Consultant: Services Design Consultants
  • Area: 6000.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Shamanth Patil J

© Shamanth Patil J © Shamanth Patil J © Shamanth Patil J © Shamanth Patil J

Eagleton Weekend Home / VSDP

© Anand Jaju
© Anand Jaju

© Anand Jaju © Anand Jaju © Anand Jaju © Anand Jaju

DPS Kindergarden School / Khosla Associates

  • Architects: Khosla Associates
  • Location: Bangalore, India
  • Principal Designers: Sandeep Khosla and Amaresh Anand
  • Design Team: Sandeep Khosla, Amaresh Anand, and Bijeta Bachaspati
  • Client: Annabelle Manwaring
  • Area: 35000.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Shamanth Patil

© Shamanth Patil © Shamanth Patil © Shamanth Patil © Shamanth Patil

Nirvana Film Office / SJK Architects

  • Architects: SJK Architects
  • Location: Bangalore, India
  • Design Team: Shimul Javeri Kadri, Sarika Shetty, Roshni Kshirsagar, Poonam Sachdev
  • Area: 8000.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2011
  • Photographs: Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri

© Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri © Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri © Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri © Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri

Bapagrama Stone House / Pragrup

  • Architects: Pragrup
  • Location: Bangalore, India
  • Design Team: Ravindra Kumar, Mahaveer Bhurat, Kavitha C. A., Lekha Nanjaiah
  • Structural Consultants: Pragrup
  • Area: 0.0 ft2
  • Photographs: Courtesy of Pragrup

Courtesy of Pragrup Courtesy of Pragrup Courtesy of Pragrup Courtesy of Pragrup

Halcyon Complex / VSDP

© Pallon Daruwala © Pallon Daruwala © Pallon Daruwala © Pallon Daruwala

Bhartiya City Urban Developement / Broadway Malyan

Launched by Broadway Malyan, in collaboration with real estate and infrastructure development company Bhartiya Urban, Bhartiya City is the single largest urban development within the limits of any Indian metropolitan area. The 125-acre design, located in North Bangalore, India, will provide a fully-integrated mix of residential, retail, hospitality and Special Economic Zone uses, as well school, healthcare and sports facilities, making it the first of its kind in India. More images and architects’ description after the break.

B.I.C Open House Competition Entry / Aétrangère

The proposal by Aétrangère  for the Bangalore International Center Complex Open House seeks to show a unique path to allow a soft transition of values from urban to nature and from modernity to local culture. Hybridizing the urban space with landscape and ecology, their design introduces and enhances new ways of urban, cultural and natural dialogue and fosters a shared sense of belonging and a strong sense of place and ‘ownership’. More images and architects’ description after the break.

White Canvas & 22 feet office / Kamat & Rozario Architecture

  • Architects: Kamat & Rozario Architecture
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Design Team: Smruti Kamat & Lester Rozario
  • Contractors: Prathiba Interiors & Parthiban
  • Area: 7000.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Shanavas Photography

© Shanavas Photography © Shanavas Photography © Shanavas Photography © Shanavas Photography

Splice / Cadence

  • Architects: Cadence
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Project Team: Smaran Mallesh, Narendra Pirgal, Vikram Rajashekar, Rejin Karthik
  • Project Year: 2010
  • Photographs: Claire Arni

© Claire Arni © Claire Arni © Claire Arni © Claire Arni

House of Pavilions / Architecture Paradigm

  • Architects: Architecture Paradigm
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Architects: Architecture Paradigm
  • Project Year: 2011
  • Photographs: Courtesy of architecture paradigm

Courtesy of  architecture paradigm Courtesy of  architecture paradigm Courtesy of  architecture paradigm Courtesy of  architecture paradigm

Stacked House Renovation / Architecture Paradigm

  • Architects: Architecture Paradigm
  • Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Architects: Architecture Paradigm Private
  • Project Team: Sandeep J, Manoj Ladhad, Vimal Jain, Aishwarya & Dharma
  • Structural Engineering: BL Manjunath & Co
  • Area: 400.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2010
  • Photographs: Vimal Jain

© Vimal Jain © Vimal Jain © Vimal Jain © Vimal Jain