The Vordernberg detention centre is a building complex for up to 200 people who are detained because they have no residence permit for the European Union: failed asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, etc. It was the primary goal of the architects to give these people a home during their stay at the centre - a home that allows them to maintain their dignity and that is not in any way connected with the concept of punishment. Thanks to the good cooperation with the contracting authorities the architects had the chance to pursue a new approach that is radically different from the usual accommodation in police detention centres and prisons.
When Sue Architekten accepted the project their objective was to dramatically improve the current accommodation situation of these detainees. These people are not prisoners. They have not committed any crime - they merely are in the country illegally. Yet they are often treated like criminal offenders, serving their term in 18th- and 19th-century police prisons. With only one hour of outdoor activity per day but 23 hours spent in cells that sometimes only allow them to catch a glimpse of the outside world if they climb on the bed.
At the Vordernberg detention centre the approach - and the terminology - is different: with bedrooms instead of prison cells, residential groups instead of cell blocks, and communal areas instead of closed unit. The Sue architects hope that this attitude will also be felt in the daily life at the centre. The detention centre is a new building with a floor area of 10,000 square metres that was divided into two parts. The elongated administrative wing, which covers about a third of the total floor area, stands along the street. Facing away from it is the residential wing, shaped roughly like a comb, with about 6,500 square metres. The courtyards of the residential groups open out onto a stream and a mountain.
There are nine residential groups for slightly more than 20 individuals each. In addition to the bedrooms they also include a living room, a community kitchen and additional common rooms that offer the detainees much-needed private space. One of the most important features of this detention centre is the fact that the windows are not barred. Instead the glazing in the ribbon windows is fixed in position and cannot be opened.Narrow openable flaps provide ventilation, but as they are only ten cm wide they prevent anyone climbing out unnoticed. The materials chosen for fitting-out the interior are of high quality and can age well, even under heavy use. The wall claddings are of maritime pine. The vinyl carpet flooring, the curtains and the special chairs will give the residential groups a bright, domestic feeling.