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Your typical penitentiary is a grim, fortified edifice far removed from community and culture. Not so the Minimum-Security Prison of Nanterre, a suburb of Paris. Located in a mixed-use neighbourhood, the 4,350-square-metre building is surprisingly congenial. It’s clad in perforated weathering steel, and the interior palette consists of lacquered aluminum and fine mineral plaster — bright materials that enliven the space. At the centre of the structure is a vibrantly coloured exercise yard, while on the southern facade a rectangular cut brings sunlight into a secure but well-lit courtyard. The building comprises administrative offices and a minimum-security unit where inmates participate in a rehabilitation program: They are granted temporary passes to leave and engage with the wider community. If prison architecture is usually panoptic and secretive, the Nanterre complex exudes warmth and transparency.

Project Minimum-Security Area and Penitentiary Services for Integration and Probation Location Nanterre, France Firm LAN, France Team Umberto Napolitano and Benoit Jallon with Julia Palladino, Philippe Pelletier, Remi Cheilan, Johann Nicolas, Raoul Nicolas, Stéphane Loustalet, Michel Forgue and Louis-Maris Gard Photo Cyrille Weiner

Minimum-Security Area and Penitentiary Services for Integration and Probation

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