New Correctional Facility Nuuk

Rehabilitation in nature

Nestled in the rugged terrain of Greenland’s seaside capital, the New Correctional Facility Nuuk offers a setting for progressive rehabilitation and punishment, and a bold statement about the power of architecture to affect human behavior. The building is designed to give inmates a sense of purpose and hope, while allowing families in Nuuk to be reunited.

The building is designed a small village over three levels with residential blocks, workspaces, education and sports facilities, a library, a health center, and a chapel. In addition, there is an administration division and various technical and security installations. The interiors are appointed with traditional Greenland flourishes by local artists to enrich communal areas with landscape paintings, traditional designs, and carve etchings into the perimeter wall.

By providing access to nature, the design aims to diminish physical and psychological violence. This humane facility concept mimics the rhythm and structure of everyday life in the hope that once released, the offenders will have a greater chance of successful reintegration into society, with lower rates of re-offending.

Until the facility opened, serving a sentence for a severe crime committed in Greenland meant relocating some 3,000 kilometers away to Denmark. Inmates, who are currently living in the facility, and the personnel who work with them, now have dramatic seascape views and modern, thoughtful surroundings in which to work and serve their sentence. But the changes will not only affect those within the facility's walls; the building will also make reunification possible between inmates and their families living in Nuuk as inmates will no longer be relocated to Denmark but will instead be able to server their time closer to home.

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Nuuk, Greenland
Correctional Facility
8,387 m²
Restricted competition
Completed in 2016
The Danish Prison & Probation Services
Collaborating Architect:
Friis & Moltke Architects
Landscape Architect:
LYTT Architecture as
Rambøll A/S
Adam Mørk

In the design for the New Correctional Facility in Nuuk, Greenland, the contrast between beauty and roughness is a guiding theme. Openness, light, views, security and flexibility are the leading values behind the the 8,000 square metre correctional facility in the capital of Greenland.

The project matches the unique and beautiful surroundings and supports the focus of the Danish Prison and Probation Service on the balance between punishment and rehabilitation. The belief that the physical surroundings have an important impact on human behaviour and the will to collaborate has motivated the client to initiate a project of high architectural quality. 

Architecturally the facility is composed of accurately shaped blocks, which in their positioning follow the natural contours of the rocky landscape. In appreciation of the lines and character of the landscape, the orientation and scale of the project makes the building appear subordinate to its surroundings. It is a place with a strong identity – a small, well-defined area in a magnificent and vast natural setting.

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The contrast between beauty and roughness is also present in the choice of materials: concrete, wood and corten steel. The choice of materials is rooted in a desire to adapt the complex to the landscape.

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From the inside, the landscape is present throughout the building. The picturesque backdrop is framed by the windows providing unobstructed views of the surroundings. By bringing nature into the building, it is a reminder of the world outside that the correctional facility helps inmates to reestablish a relationship with.   

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The project consists of five residential units with rooms for 76 inmates, in both a ‘closed’ and an ‘open’ section. The design offers an experience of the changing daylight and the surroundings. The contrasts of nature – snow, ice, rocks, moss, blue sky, sun, night, day, birds and other animals – are brought into the complex by the way the buildings are arranged in relation to each other. Thus, a panoramic window in the common lounge area carries nature into each residential unit, and the inmates have an unrestricted view towards the landscape from the windows in their cells.

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The project also includes work and leisure facilities as well as spaces for visitors to the inmates. In addition, there is an administration division and various technical and security installations.

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The chapel where inmates have a space for quiet time and contemplation. Local artists have decorated the building both inside and outside to create a welcoming atmosphere inducing hope and creativity. The motifs have found their inspiration in local culture and the natural surroundings. 

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The New Correctional Facility in Nuuk is the first such facility in Greenland.