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A pioneering example of trauma led design 

The Bella Centre, Community Custody Unit

The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit11


Scottish Prison Service





This critical piece in the client’s broader custodial estate provides a stepping stone between prison and the community and adopts a tailor made, trauma informed design with wellbeing at its core.

The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit9

The background

“The Bella Centre” Community Custody Unit is the first of its kind in the UK. It provides safe and shared accommodation for sixteen women who will benefit from closer community contact and access to local services, instilling independence which is critical for successful reintegration.  

We were invited to interrogate and develop an existing baseline building design, bringing our expertise to enhance and create a building which balances security and safe functionality with wellbeing and trauma informed design.  

The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit4
The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit2
The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit3

The design approach

The facility comprises a central hub building at the heart of the development which faces outwards, connecting the residents with the local community.  It comprises a diverse mix of accommodation including an administration suite, gym space, community hub space, yoga studio and health assessment facilities.

The orientation of the site plan optimises the topography, maximising natural light across the whole area and includes a centralised communal garden. The development aims to blend with the surrounding community using traditional domestic styled pitched roof buildings and high-quality landscaping. 

The architectural features create an environment that mimics the facility’s rehabilitative and therapeutic aspirations. Architectural elements are used for wayfinding, including treated timbers and lighting to remove formal signposting.

The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit6
The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit10
The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit1

House blocks simulate a regular cluster of family homes, with landscaped gardens and courtyard spaces. The houses are designed with the character of a domestic dwelling to enhance the resident’s independence and life skills.  

Focusing on the residents' experience throughout their stay was core to design decisions. The interior scheme, architectural features and layout were carefully considered to create a nurturing and comforting environment.  Considerations included the psychology of colour theory, material choices and the positioning of windows and bench seating for moments of pause. 

The central hub space is bright and airy with high ceilings and key zones defined through the use of furniture, screening and changes in ceiling height.  The space allows women from all backgrounds to integrate through shared learning recreational activities and by dining collectively. 

The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit4
The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit8
The Bella Centre Community Custody Unit

We are very pleased with what we achieved in terms of the architectural design and creating a facility that in no way looks institutional or custodial. Scottish Prison Service has only had very positive feedback from the community.

Gordon McKean

Head of Projects for Scottish Prison Service


Cadzow Pelosi

Related Projects

David Mc Nabb Director of Architecture Leisure Custodial lead

Would you like to know more about our work in this sector? Please get in touch.

Email David