Whitehorse Correctional Centre
DGBK Architects and Kobayashi + Zedda Architects
This modern correctional facility employs simple and efficient construction methods and subtle design elements that represent a new approach to inmate rehabilitation in Canada’s north.
The high-security facility in Whitehorse, YK houses inmates awaiting trial and serving sentences of up to two years. A three-storey cell structure organized into pods is served by a two-storey administrative and auxiliary services wing. Among the resources provided to encourage a community-based approach to restorative growth and rehabilitation is the Spiritual Healing Room. The facility is located within the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’an Council and it was important to provide a spiritual and non-denominational space within the complex.
Navigating the environmental, climatic and geographic constraints of building in the North, the design and construction methods were tailored for an efficient schedule and economical use of materials. Each pod consists of reinforced concrete floors and structural steel roofs with masonry infill walls. A fast-tracked assembly of floors, roof and load-bearing exterior walls allowed for the rapid enclosure of the envelope to facilitate ongoing interior construction. The design also emphasizes natural light and the selective use of wood at a variety of scales to provide a connection to the beauty of the surrounding landscape. These two principles are most effectively demonstrated in the Spiritual Healing Room where concealed windows wash the gently curving walls with slivers of light and glulam beams above evoke the shape and construction of a canoe.
The Transitional Women’s Living Unit was also designed and built as part of the project. This medium security correctional centre has a residential quality, distinguishing itself from the larger Whitehorse Correctional Centre on the same site. This separate building was constructed using local construction crews from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation upon whose traditional territory the City of Whitehorse sits.