Architecture of Prisons

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Nearly 11 million people around the world are currently living in prisons, with a significant number of those still awaiting trial and sentencing for the crimes they are accused of. The impact of a person’s time in prison is felt not only by them, but by the community at large. Many prisoners are so negatively affected by their experience in prison that they are never able to fully rejoin society.

In many developing countries, prisons are built to western standards, removing inmates from cultural norms, and that has a significant impact on their mental well-being. This also makes it more difficult for those who have served their sentence to function normally in society. Isolating prisoners, having them eating and sleeping alone, is often psychologically damaging and makes it harder for them to adjust when they are released.

The Challenge

Bee Breeders, in partnership with ARCHHIVE BOOKS, is calling for essay submissions for their next print publication, “The Architecture of Prisons”, which is planned for release in spring 2021. This essay competition is being run alongside the Prisons Redesigned! architecture competition, in which participants must envision designs for a new style of prison that could accommodate 600 inmates. Participants are welcome to join either or both of the competitions.

The Architecture of Prisons essay competition is looking for essay submissions on the impact architecture has on inmates and communities. We’ve seen how incarceration affects individuals around the world, causing them severe psychological distress and subjecting them to abuse and physical harm during their sentence. In many instances, this results in long-term changes in behaviour, making it almost impossible for prisoners to become contributing members of society upon release.

How can prisons be effectively re-imagined? What purpose do they serve now and what purpose could they serve in the future? How has a change in design revolutionized institutions in the past? For this essay competition, the jury panel is looking for submissions that show a deep understanding of how architecture and design contribute to these problems, as well as ideas and insights about the power of architecture to correct them.

Submissions from participants related to any field or discipline are welcome, and selected winners will receive monetary awards and will be included in the ARCHHIVE BOOKS “The Architecture of Prisons” publication. 


  • First Prize: 600 €, Publication, Certificate of Achievement
  • Second Prize: 300 €, Publication, Certificate of Achievement
  • Third Prize: 100 €, Publication, Certificate of Achievement
  • + 6 Honourable Mentions