From the main entrance. Decoration of the gate by Jeremy Welsh and Jon Arne Mogstad.

From the main entrance. Decoration of the gate by Jeremy Welsh and Jon Arne Mogstad.

Inside the gate, inner sluice with the administration building to the left. Decoration of the gate by Jeremy Welsh and Jon Arne Mogstad.

Exercise yard by the cell block, with natural landscaping.

The prison wall.

Exercise yard.

Cell block.

From the sluice. Decorations by Gerd Tinglum.

From the ceremony room/chapel. Decorations by Astrid Krogh.


Corridor in cell block.


Common room in cell block.

Staff canteen.

Site plan.

Plan Section B, ground floor.

Plan Section B, first floor.

Plan Section F, ground floor.

Plan Section F, first floor.

The main intention and concept for the project rests in the mutual dependency and contrast between “hard and soft”. The “hard” represents the forcible removal of the freedom of an individual, and the “soft” is the aim of rehabilitation. The prison authorities aim to prepare the prisoners for a life outside the walls. This aim is translated in the main organisation of the prison, where the spread of functions across the site allows the prisoners movements to mimic our everyday transitions between home, work, school, leisure activities etc. The architecture should meet prisoners and staff with an anti-authoritarian face, avoiding symmetries and axial orders. Security is a combination of static and dynamic measures, with static physical barriers and the dynamic presence of prison staff.

Materials are selected to change according to light and weather conditions, giving a sense of the passing of time. The interior design, too, emphasises the differences between the various programme areas with the use of materials and colour, which also eases orientation within a large institution. Furniture and fittings are all of high quality, to ensure durability and low maintenance. All furniture in the cells is specially designed in solid maple and built-in.

The landscape design is based on the natural features of the terrain. The north-south ridges have been retained, and the buildings are placed to make use of the existing topography. Nature is important in the daily life of the prison, in a balance with security requirements.
Existing trees have been retained wherever possible, to create outdoor spaces and give vertical emphasis to balance the horizontal stretch of the outer wall. An area of untouched vegetation has been left in the middle of the grounds. Local vegetation has been supplemented, but low brush and undergrowth has been removed to allow the necessary surveillance at ground level. An orchard and kitchen garden has been planted adjacent to the kitchens, and a sports ground installed next to the activity building.


Halden prison is featured in Wim Wenders' 2014 film project "Cathedrals of Culture" - a film project in 3D about the soul of buildings, in a short film directed by Michael Madsen.