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Greenland Green-Lights New Corrections Facility

Exterior rendering of the Ny Anstalt Correctional Facility which will use a mix of concrete and weathering steel to develop a natural patina
The structures will stand in bold contrast to the sloping landscape of jagged stone at the site. Buildings will be sited following the natural terrain as much as possible. © Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Friis & Moltke

The Ny Anstalt Correctional Facility will be built on the rocky slopes beneath Lille Malene Mountain, using a mix of concrete and weathering steel to develop a natural patina.

July 9, 2013—Construction will begin later this year on a new correctional facility on the rocky slopes beneath Lille Malene Mountain in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. The facility will house as many as 76 dangerous inmates—40 in a closed section—who are currently transported 3,500 km away to facilities in Denmark to serve their sentences.

The new facility will house inmates too dangerous for Anstalten for Domfaldte, a facility that holds approximately 110 inmates and focuses on rehabilitation. Inmates work outside the prison during their sentences and are even permitted to go on hunting trips when accompanied by guards.

The new prison—the Correctional Facility Ny Anstalt—was designed by a team comprising architects from the firms of Schmidt Hammer Lassen, in Denmark, and Friis & Moltke, in Denmark. Construction and engineering services will be provided by Rambøll, headquartered in Ørestad, Copenhagen. The design was selected by the Danish Prison and Probation Service following an international competition.

“The unique location in the landscape of Nuuk made the relation between the new institution and the natural surroundings a special theme in the winning concept,” said Flemming Schou Pedersen, a project manager for Rambøll, in written comments to Civil Engineering online.

The population of Nuuk is less than 16,000, making it one of the smallest national capitals in the world. City residents experience a climate in which average low temperatures are below freezing for eight months a year. Average high temperatures in the city never exceed 50° F.

Prevalent clouds and exceptionally short days in the winter months combine to limit the city to an average of less than 4 hours of sunlight a day over the course of a year.

“The special weather conditions—with snow and extreme cold—are accounted for in the choice of materials, which are very robust and designed for harsh weather,” Pedersen said.

The design of the facility places the structures in bold contrast to the sloping landscape of jagged stone. The design emphasizes straight lines and orthogonal relationships, the structures placed at the site following the natural terrain as much as possible, Pedersen said. 

Rendering of new correctional facility will feature exposed in situ concrete and weathering steel

The new correctional facility will feature exposed in situ concrete
and weathering steel to develop a natural patina in the harsh
Greenland climate. © Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Friis & Moltke

The design features large windows in open areas and structures are sited to create optimal views from all levels. The buildings will also be sited to develop natural sectioning between the closed and open areas of the facility. The foundations of the buildings will be placed directly on mountainside (fell), secured by fell anchors. Slabs will be sited to minimize the need for blasting and filling.

Although the design emphasizes contrasts with the landscape, the 8,000 sq m facility will employ a facade of weathering steel and concrete to develop a natural patina over time.

“The materials of the building will absorb nature’s colors and patina through the raw concrete and varied, weathered steel facades,” Pedersen said. “As such, the building structure of the institution allows nature to come close to the functions of the building. The wall is placed in a way that creates harmony with the landscape.”

The main structural elements of the buildings will be in situ concrete. Concrete walls will be exceptionally thick to provide soundproofing and armored in appropriate locations to increase security at the facility.

“The perimeter wall will be built with in-situ concrete, which will make the wall very robust to possible escape attempts, and the maintenance [requirements for] the wall will be limited,” Pedersen said. “Security has been an essential part of the entire project. Not only must the institution live up to high-standard security requirements, we also had to take precautions for prison escapes through the mountainside that the building is integrated into.”

Pedersen said designing a correctional facility carries an especially unusual task for architects and engineers: anticipating the criminal mind.

“One of the challenges was to envision the risk of how materials and the surroundings can be used as weapons or escape routes,” he said.

The facility is slated to be completed in 2017.


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