Prison Complex Dobrunje: humane Prison

Ljubljana, Slovenia 2017

correctional institution

open anonymous competition, 2nd prize

Republic of Slovenia Ministry of Justice

the area along Ljubljana’s eastern bypass and Litijska street

Site area
44.890 m²

Total floor area
33.085 m²

the central building, the detention building, the prison building, the open-section prison building, the educational center

reinforced concrete

brick, metal panels, glass

SADAR+VUGA (Jurij Sadar, Boštjan Vuga, Maja Omerzel, Tina Hočevar, Aleš Pajk, Klemen Šenk)

ŠABEC KALAN ŠABEC – architects (Mojca Šabec Kalan, Andrej Šabec, Ivana Ljubanović, Matic Kržan, Kaja Pregelj), Andreas Cesarini, visualizations

The competition entry of SADAR+VUGA and Šabec Kalan Šabec-architects is built upon the ideas of integration and inclusion.

The spatial concepts of the project, its operability and design principles, were derived from the integration concept. In this sense, the individual who inhabits the Prison Complex would live in an environment that encourages the smooth integration after the discharge from the correctional facility.

How should such a facility be designed? What does make it “humane”? Does this mean that the environment within the walls should resemble the environment outside the walls? How to create an inmate microcosmos, in the place where the time passes at a different pace, the movement is restricted, each activity is spatially and chronologically predetermined and systematically regulated? How to introduce the parameters of variability and the dynamics in such environment? How to create the character and atmosphere of the place to support the readiness for the integration into the life out of the facility?

A thorough response to the functional and operational demands of the programme places the prison in the semi-rural outskirts of Ljubljana, as it also introduces the elements from to the outside world to the enclosed environment of the prison. As a result, the inmates perceive the diverse, vivid environment.

The design of the individual building units and the landscape design both evolve from the inmate perspective, the perspective of the resident who inhabits and experiences the place over long time periods. The environment enclosed by the walls continues the environment that surrounds the walls.

The same grass continually grows on both sides of the wall. The new trees are planted to continue the direction and the density of the existing trees. The terrain, enclosed by the wall continues the relief of the river Ljubljanica dam.  The landscape design patterns enter the space enclosed by the walls freely – as if the wall does not represent a significant border/divider.

The prison complex consists of five buildings: the central building, the detention building, the prison building behind the walls, the open-section prison building, and the educational center. The buildings are designed to diminish any division that would occur between the structures behind and in front of the wall. Following that logic, the wall continues the building of the educational center at the southern part of the complex, and the open-section building at the northern part is designed identically as the buildings of the detention and the prison behind the wall. The proposal relays on the attentive integration of the complex in the wider context. The complex is not a grey zone or the deleted spatial entity. On the contrary, the design of both built and unbuilt space established the complex as an integral part of the Ljubljana periphery.

The Prison Complex resembles a campus, where freestanding buildings with associated atrium promenades and outdoor sports facilities are softly inserted into the meadows with fruit trees. The promenade atrium is special space within the Prison, whose character is not found in the surroundings. The promenade atrium is the outer living room of the prison units. It repeats in different modes – it can be laid in the lawn, positioned at the rooftop, or it can penetrate the building interior. The meadows containing the fruit trees separate the buildings and the atriums.

The entire area of the Prison complex is thus marked by diverse ambient, which creates the effect of extending the area around the walls into the area enclosed by the walls.

In addition to the bright and airy buildings, the dimension of the complex, its diversity, the seasonal changeability of the exterior ambiances all together contribute to the creation of the impression of the world behind the walls, the world where the movement of individuals is not restricted.

Our proposal for the prison complex represents the ambient ‘patchwork’. On the outer side, it is a meadow with the fruit trees, which determines the atmosphere and the character of a new 21st-century prison that combines the safety, operability, and efficiency of the airport terminal with an atmosphere of rehabilitation centers.