On the road towards the beaches of Haarlem, I’d often see a cupola in the distance. It had purple and pink stained windows on the top, and the dome was enormous. I learned it was a former prison converted into a movie theater, so I packed my cameras and went to explore.
It turned out to be so much more than a movie theater. It was first built in 1901 and served as a prison until 2016, when it closed for lack of inmates and funding. It was rebuilt as a movie hall and a Syrian refugee home center, then after the pandemic evolved into a coworking space for entrepreneurs and creatives. Today, you can register your business and work inside your own private cell.
The design has stayed the same: the roundness of the building allowed for a Panopticon layout, all-seeing. There only needed to be one guard standing in the center hall who could see everything happening in the 400 cells. The highest level is open to free working; the lower levels are reserved for business and meeting rooms.
A prison, a movie theater, a workspace, a cafè and a Rijksmonument. Also a museum – WWII resistance fighter Hannie Schaft (known as the Girl with the Red Hair) was arrested in 1945 and briefly detained in this prison. She was later taken to Amsterdam and executed. Today, De Koepel honors her with a small museum that explains her story.
This iconic prison was rebuilt for and from the people of Haarlem, as an important symbol of the city. Definitely worth the outing.