Kick off new Haren Prison Complex

Innovative design concept leads to 'prison village' Haren, Belgium

EGM architects design the new prison complex in Brussels, part of the municipality of Haren, on behalf of the Cafasso consortium. On July 18, 2018 Cafasso NV was officially appointed by the Belgian federal government (via 'Regie der Gebouwen') for the implementation of the DBFM agreement for the realization of new prison. Construction preparations started last week. The new complex will replace the prisons of Sint-Gillis, Vorst and Berkendael and will be completed in the course of 2022.

Human living conditions

The long-term policy for detention in Belgium is outlined in a document entitled Masterplan for Detention and Internment in humane conditions. The document, the most recent edition of which dates from 2016, calls for particular attention for the human living conditions in Belgian prisons. Right from a very early stage of the planning for the new complex, it became clear that a prison based on the widely familiar Ducpétiaux concept (star-shaped prison) or the Panopticon model did not reflect this aim.

Innovative design concept

The solution for the Haren Prison Complex is captured in a new design concept that was developed on the basis of EGM’s years of experience in designing penitentiary institutions and (closed) youth care institutions. In earlier projects, the spatial, logistical and security aspects of the assignments were combined with human living environments that received increasing attention. The Haren Prison Complex is designed as an innovative ‘prison village’ with various smaller pleasant-looking buildings that differ in terms of size, shape and materials.


The variety in appearance and scale reflects the layout of an ordinary village. The design deals creatively with the existing irregular contours and height differences of the building site, resulting in a varied landscape and views. Natural greenery, a village scale and recognizable materials contribute to the humane conditions of the prison for both detainees and staff.

Functional characteristics

The size of the prison and the spatial setting lend the project a strong urban design character. About 116,000 m² will be built on the 15-hectare site, which will eventually house 1,190 inmates. The complex will include two custodial units and one prison unit for males, one closed and one open institution for females, a hospital, an observation unit, a psychiatric unit, a medical centre, a sports complex, a work and education studio, and a visitor facility.


The Federal Buildings Authority in Belgium awarded the prison contract to Cafasso on the basis of a Design, Build, Finance & Maintain (DBFM) contract. The Cafasso consortium consists of Denys nv, FCC Construcción sa and Macquarie Capital. EGM architects and Belgian architecture firm B2Ai are teaming up as architects for the Haren Prison Complex.