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Union County Juvenile Detention Center “Transcends the Usual Stereotypes”

Union County Juvenile Detention Center “Transcends the Usual Stereotypes” Wins Prestigious Worldwide Archictectural Award


Union County, NJ – Union County’s Juvenile Detention Center has just been named one of two co-winners in the first-ever World Architecture News Effectiveness Awards, a prestigious global competition that recognizes the profound effect that architectural design can have on society. The building was designed by Ricci Greene Associates, which submitted the winning application.

“The Union County Juvenile Detention Center’s award-winning design has set the trend for all others to follow in the industry,” said Charlotte DeFilippo, executive director of the Union County Improvement Authority, which financed and developed the facility. “All stakeholders, led by Union County Improvement Authority, and including the County of Union, the Freeholder Board, Ricci Greene–came together to carefully plan and execute a model development.”

Union County Human Services Director Frank Guzzo also played a key role in leading the project to fruition, DeFilippo noted.

Guzzo, in turn, thanked DeFilippo and the Improvement Authority for their efforts in bringing the project to fruition on time and under budget.

Opened in April 2008 in the City of Linden, the one-story, 70,000 square foot masonry and steel building can house up to 80 residents.

This facility incorporated an “evidence-based” design approach, which included research into the juvenile justice system in terms of sociology, demographics, technology and design.

“The Detention center is a highly functional space that enhances our ability to serve young people at a very critical and very sensitive juncture in their lives,” said Freeholder Chairman Deborah P. Scanlon. “This award is truly a distinction and it sets a high benchmark for new public facilities moving forward.”

The Effectiveness Awards are the first professional awards intended specifically to recognize projects in which the architect goes beyond designing a beautiful building that meets the requirements of the client. Instead, the judges focus on the benefits that a carefully designed physical space can provide for those who use it, and for the surrounding community.

Among many special features of the building that were influenced by the research, one standout design element is the generous use of open space and natural light. The facility includes almost an acre of outdoor courtyard space, and natural light from both the exterior and interior corridors flows into classrooms and living units. Full-spectrum lighting is known to have a positive effect on academic performance.

An editorial in World Architecture News stated that “the building has been described as ‘optimism that belies the building type’ and its ambitions and achievements make it a truly exceptional candidate and deserved winner of this award.”

For more information on the award, please go to: