The Edinburgh Prison Visitor Centre is the result of a design competition, held in 1997, to develop a prototype for the Scottish Prison Service. The brief called for a comfortable, welcoming building located outwith the prison gates, where visitors (mostly women and children) could prepare for and recover from their visits.
Clarity is paramount in this type of building. The distinction between prison and reception centre must be obvious for the latter to be effective as an independent entity. Equally, visitors needed to be clear about where the entrance and toilets were, as the visiting process is stressful enough without architectural complications. With this in mind, the building was designed to maximise daylight while minimising views of the prison itself, by wrapping the accommodation around an outdoor children’s play area and peeling up the patented copper roof at its south-east corner, forming a dramatic external silhouette and uninterrupted, light-filled interior.