Who’s up for a night behind bars?

by | May 21, 2019 | Design

The prison has had many lives but it was in 2017 that a hospitality vision was put on the table

A new hotel and residential complex is set to open in a former panopticon prison building in Arnhem, the Netherlands in 2021

A dome-covered rotunda in the Dutch locality of Arnhem is to be converted into a hotel and housing complex, as well as a catering facility.

The building was a prison for most of its life, but the conversion into a hospitality and catering complex is welcomed by locals and developers.

We find out more about this unusual offering.

Historic panopticon prison to be redeveloped

The panopticon is one of the cleverest, but also one of the most oppressive typologies in the architectural canon.

Developed in the 18th century as a method of surveillance and control, the panopticon was quickly adopted in prison design.

Its circular configuration allowed guards to observe all inmates at the same time, without the inmates being able to see who was observing them or from where.

Although the panopticon design was abandoned in contemporary prison design, in the Netherlands, there are three historic panopticon prisons – in Arnhem, Breda and Haarlem.

The Dome Prison in Arnhem was bought by Ter Steege Area Development and Explorius Real Estate Development in 2018, who have entered into a partnership with EHM Group to develop the prison into a hotel, housing and catering facilities.

A prison becomes a hotel

The Arnhem Dome Prison has had many lives – previously it was a prison, a custody house and a holding centre. 

Built between 1882 and 1883, the prison’s circular structure is executed in red brick and is topped with a distinctive ribbed dome.

The prison housed a pop-up hotel for four nights in 2017, but it was only when the development team came along that a more permanent hospitality vision was put on the table.

“When we became the owners of the site around the Dome Prison in June 2018, we already had a clear picture of what we wanted to do with it,” said Gijs Takkenkamp of Ter Steege Area Development.

“The neighbourhood, together with the government, had prepared a memorandum with principles, which we naturally used as a guideline. In the following period, we were approached by various parties who want to work with us,” he went on to explain.

“The plans of EHM Group to realize a hospitality and hotel function in this historic prison fit in best with the image we have in mind – namely a multifunctional residential area combined with an attractive design for the monumental buildings,” he concludes.


Let’s take a look at a few other projects currently underway in the Netherlands:


Niu Fender 


Hampton Inn by Hilton Hoog Catharijne Mall of the Netherlands 


Yotel Amsterdam 



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