Exploring the impact of design on youth justice facilities with H2o’s Matt Dwyer

Posted on May 27, 2022

Congratulations to H2o Architects’ architectural graduate Matt Dwyer, who has received a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to further his architectural research into the design of therapeutic and relationship-based youth custodial facilities.


The fellowship furthers Matt’s research project, Local Time, conducted in partnership with mental health and juvenile justice researcher Dr Sanne Oostermeijer from The University of Melbourne. The project offers a new Design Standard for evidence-based designs to improve outcomes for young people in custody, as well as youth justice staff, and the broader community.


Local Time won the Victorian Design Challenge 2018, demonstrating how design can be used to help vulnerable youth in society. The project links the planning and design of a facility with a strengths-focused justice system for young people, which embraces access to mental health services, education, family, mobility and employment options.


Matt’s research seeks to understand best-practice facilities from different jurisdictions to advocate for reform in Australia. Examining facilities in Norway, Spain and the Netherlands, the research explores the design of these facilities through four concepts:


1 small-scale facilities;

2 local facilities that encourage meaningful prosocial connection with the community;

3 facilities that promote positive relationships with staff and facilitate individually-tailored security responses; and

4 therapeutic and homelike environments.


Matt and Sanne’s latest research was published in April, and analyses the views of youth custodial staff on design around relational security approaches.