Amazon has an office in a former prison in the Netherlands

  • In 2022, Amazon opened office space in de Koepel, a former prison in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

  • The prison, which is built in a panopticon design, was active from 1901 to 2016.

  • Haarlem has converted de Koepel into a community space, including space for tech companies.

Amazon Web Services debuted a new office space in Haarlem, the Netherlands, in 2022, but there's one unusual thing about it that's gained traction on social media this week: it's inside a former prison.

Prison de Koepel, or "The Haarlem Dome Prison," opened in 1901 and closed in 2016. Following its closure, the city of Haarlem briefly used de Koepel as a shelter space for Syrian migrants seeking asylum.

Amazon uses space on the third floor of de Koepel, where prison cells have been converted into office spaces and communal desks are available. On Thursday, an Amazon employee posted a tour of the space to TikTok, and one X user, @jelleprins, reposted it to X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday.

The video shows a few former prison cells with the AWS logo plastered just above the cell numbers. The TikTok user says that the cells, complete with office furniture and chairs, function as meeting rooms.

"Talk about vendor lock-in…" she writes in the text overlay.

The comments and reposts often noted the irony of Amazon having an office in a former prison. There has been widespread reporting about how Amazon warehouse workers and delivery drivers are overworked, over-surveilled, and underpaid — at times peeing in bottles to meet quotas on time.

The prison is a dome-shaped building, with multiple stories of prison cells facing the central space. It was built in a panopticon-like style — intended for prisoners to be unable to know if they're being watched. Unlike a true panopticon, de Koepel's watchtower appears to have been to the side, rather than in the center of the dome.

The use of a panopticon-style building is also notable because Amazon has been criticized for perpetuating surveillance through its Ring home-security cameras and its constant data collection on other products, such as those with Alexa functionality. Earlier this year, Amazon had to pay $30 million in two separate suits, in which the Federal Trade Commission charged the company with privacy violations. Court documents from one of those suits revealed several unreported incidents of Ring workers spying on customers.

Cupola XS, which manages the new office spaces in de Koepel, also hosts banking and investment companies, including Rabobank, ROM InWest, and BCNL, which is also known as Blockchain Netherlands. Other parts of the former prison include spaces for guided tours, study spaces for students, and a café.

Valerie Vallenduuk, the director of operations at Cupola XS, told Insider via email that there is a lot happening at the former prison.

"We are building a tech campus with entrepreneurs and students, but also you can find cultural activities like going to the móvies in the basement or seeing an orchestra on Sunday," she said.

Representatives for Amazon and de Koepel did not immediately return requests for comment.

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