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

The Former jail in India, now Freedom Park . Image © Flickr CC user abhisheksundaram

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 Library House / Khosla Associates

© Shamanth Patil J.

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

Wilson Garden House / Architecture Paradigm

© Anand Jaju

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

Loft 38 / Khosla Associates

© Shamath Patil J.

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

Lateral House / Gaurav Roy Choudhury

© Tina Nandi

Architects:
Location: , Karnataka, India
Contractors: LISA and Ravikumar, Plumbtech Engineers, ACHU P. Enterprises
Area: 3,600 sqft
Year: 2013
Photographs: Tina Nandi

The Long House / Khosla Associates

© Shamanth Patil J

Architects: Khosla Associates
Location: Bangalore, Karnataka,
Principal Designers: Sandeep Khosla and Amaresh Anand
Design Team: Sandeep Khosla, Amaresh Anand, Raju S. and Akanksha Chhajer
Area: 6,000 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Shamanth Patil J

Eagleton Weekend Home / VSDP

© Anand Jaju

Architects: Vivek Shankar Design Partnership
Location: Bangalore,
Project Team: Vivek V Shankar, Elayaraja Subhalekha, Sunetra Yousuf
Area: 6,500 sqft
Year: 2012
Photographs: Anand Jaju

DPS Kindergarden School / Khosla Associates

© Shamanth Patil

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

Nirvana Film Office / SJK Architects

© Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri

Architects: SJK Architects
Location: , India
Design Team: Shimul Javeri Kadri, Sarika Shetty, Roshni Kshirsagar, Poonam Sachdev
Area: 8,000 sqm
Year: 2011
Photographs: Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri

Shipara / SDeG

© Clare Arni

Architects: SDeG
Location: ,
Design Team: Sujit, Balaji
Project Team : Sujit, Balaji, Gayathri, Anju, Darshan, Prabhakar, Ananya
Structural Design: Eco Consultants
Contractor (Civil): JK Constructions
Area: 340 sqm
Year: 2012
Photographs: Clare Arni

Bapagrama Stone House / Pragrup

Courtesy of Pragrup

Architects: Pragrup
Location: ,
Design Team: Ravindra Kumar, Mahaveer Bhurat, Kavitha C. A., Lekha Nanjaiah
Structural Consultants: Pragrup
Area: 1,200 ft2
Photographs: Courtesy of Pragrup

Halcyon Complex / VSDP

© Pallon Daruwala

Architects: Vivek Shankar Design Partnership
Location: , India
Design Team: Vivek. V. Shankar, Senthil Kumar Doss
Project Team: Eliyaraja, Dhanaprakash
Façade Consultants: Hunter Douglas
Structural Consultants: Cruthi Consultants Consortium
Area: 25,000 sqm
Year: 2007
Photographs: Pallon Daruwala

Bhartiya City Urban Developement / Broadway Malyan

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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, , 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 . More images and architects’ description after the break.

B.I.C Open House Competition Entry / Aétrangère

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The proposal by Aétrangère  for the 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

© Shanavas Photography

Architects: Kamat & Rozario Architecture
Location: Bangalore,
Design Team: Smruti Kamat & Lester Rozario
Project Area: 7,000 sqf
Completion: 2012
Contractors: Prathiba Interiors & Parthiban
Photographs: Shanavas Photography

Splice / Cadence

© Claire Arni

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

House of Pavilions / Architecture Paradigm

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Architects: Architecture Paradigm
Location: , India
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Courtesy of Architecture Paradigm

Stacked House Renovation / Architecture Paradigm

© Vimal Jain

Architects: Architecture Paradigm Private
Location: Bangalore,
Project Team: Sandeep J, Manoj Ladhad, Vimal Jain, Aishwarya & Dharma
Structural Engineering: BL Manjunath & Co
Project area: 400 sqm
Project year: 2010
Photographs: Vimal Jain