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This Iconic Cluster of Cubes is Now Home to 20 Ex-Cons

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Thanks to an interior overhaul by the Dutch firm Personal Architecture, one of the two "Supercubes" in Piet Blom's Cube Houses—a cluster of boxes in Rotterdam that was completed in 1984—is now being used as transitional housing for former prison inmates. The space had been previously difficult to occupy; according to Architizer, "would-be residents would have been turned off by the Supercube's dark void on the second floor—the structure's widest part—which received no daylight and tended to heat up." Yet teaming with the Exodus Foundation, an organization that gets former inmates ready to reintegrate into society, architects Sander van Schaik and Maarten Polkamp made the most of those shortcomings to create a nontraditional residential layout that fosters socialization among the 20 residents, a "space where freed inmates can rehearse the social ties that underlie the outside world, a microcosm of the city at a 45-degree tilt":

"In a single gesture, they united the four floors by carving an almost 10-foot-square light shaft down the heart of the cube. In went a central stair, plus operable windows for some much needed air and light. Polkamp and van Schaik put the bedrooms on the middle two levels and the public spaces at the top and bottom. Turning all eyes toward the stairway, they transformed Blom's funhouse design into a (dare we say?) healthy version of the Panopticon: Residents can hide, but they're encouraged not to. "Here it's much more about communicating," says van Schaik. "They're reinventing the way they're operating because of the good design."

· Jailhouse Box: Rotterdam's Ex-Cons Inherit an Architectural Icon [Architizer]