Posts tagged with "Courthouses":

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SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day

The new Los Angeles U.S. District Courthouse is located downtown midway between City Hall and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and it’s a worthy companion to those exemplary civic landmarks. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) won the competition four years ago with a simple yet powerful design: A cube of folded glass that seems to float above a recessed base. The nine upper floors are suspended from a multi-dimensional roof truss system supported on four structural cores—a strategy that halves the amount of steel a conventional building requires and makes it more resistant to a blast than one supported on columns. Architects and the Clark Construction Group collaborated on a design-build program that brought the building to completion in 40 months, and it expects to secure LEED Platinum rating.

Few buildings achieve so much, so quickly, and SOM has made a significant contribution to the renaissance of Downtown L.A., which is still a work in progress. A park designed by OMA and Mia Lehrer + Associates will occupy the long-vacant block fronting City Hall, and a Frank Gehry–designed mixed-use complex, repeatedly delayed, may soon begin construction to the west across from Disney Concert Hall.

As SOM design partner Craig Hartman explained, “We began with the concept of a courthouse that had the appropriate scale and massing and strengthened the civic axis of First Street. The facades had to achieve transparency and clarity of expression, qualities that express what Americans hope to get from the justice system.”

To exploit the drop of 25 feet from Hill Street to Broadway, the building was raised so that—as Hartman noted—the topography flows under it and it stands apart, accessed by steps on three sides and by ramps that slice up through gardens to either side of the entry. Steel bollards provide an unobtrusive security perimeter. The downtown grid is 38 degrees off from a true north-south orientation, which complicated the architects’ task of protecting the facades from solar gain. Rather than rotate the building, they folded the glass. About 1,600 chevron-shaped units of high-performance, blast-resistant glass were craned into place, and nearly all of them have an inner baffle on the side that receives direct sunlight. That cuts solar gain by half, and a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels further reduces energy consumption. The elegance of the detailing at the corners and along the upper and lower edges is the product of intensive research by SOM, which constructed full-scale mock-ups and worked closely with curtain wall manufacturer Benson Industries.

The upper stories are cantilevered 28 feet over an entry plaza, shading people who are waiting to pass through the security barrier inside the glass doors. From there, they emerge into a soaring atrium with south-facing baffles that channel light down to all 10 levels, including the 24 courtrooms on floors five through ten. “The whole building is about light,” said José Luis Palacios, design director at SOM with Paul Danna. The courtrooms are lit from clerestories facing in and out to achieve a harmonious balance. United States Marshals deputies share the third floor with the holding area for the accused. The 32 judicial chambers occupy the periphery with sweeping views of the city. Artworks, including a multi-level work by Catherine Opie, enhance the minimalist interior.

The public has free access to the upper floors and to a tree-shaded patio in back, which is flanked by low, meticulously detailed glass wings. Jurors gather in one and a cafe occupies the other. Many cases are settled by mediation, even on the day scheduled for a trial, and there are breakout areas with comfortable seating on three upper levels to accommodate these encounters. Only a small amount of artificial light is required and this is provided by energy-efficient LEDs.

The architects’ main client was the General Services Administration, whose Design Excellence Program has done much to enhance the quality of federal architecture country-wide. But SOM also worked with a committee of judges, headed by Justice Margaret M. Morrow, who enunciated 10 guiding principles for the design of the courtrooms. “Decorum, fairness and equality are the essentials and those haven’t changed very much over the years,” explained Hartman. “But judges have different opinions on how to express those qualities and it’s surprising how much latitude there is in the layout. Judge and jury need to see the face of a witness, but where are they all to sit?”

To refine its design and win approval from the judges, SOM did a full-scale mock-up of their courtroom, which groups all the parties closely together. Sidewalls clad in ribbed gypsum reinforced plaster assure good acoustics, for audibility is the highest priority of all. A tilted ceiling diffuses the natural light, and every position—including the raised dais of the judge—is wheelchair accessible.

“America’s civic buildings offer a permanent record of our democracy’s values, challenges, and aspirations,” declared Hartman at the opening. Though the SOM courthouse is a demonstration of these ideals, the reality is that ever fewer Americans can afford a day in court, given the dizzying rise of legal costs. That’s the next big case for judges and legal associations to ponder.

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Kalamazoo completes new, state-of-the-art courthouse

Kalamazoo, Michigan, has a consolidated all its family court functions into one new 81,200-square-foot facility. Designed by New York-based HOK, the Gull Road Family Justice Complex brings together juvenile functions, domestic relations, probate, prosecuting attorneys, clerks and family support services. The new natural light-filled project takes advantage of its site’s steep ridge. A two-story insulated curtain wall lines the buildings the public corridors. Courtrooms, hearing rooms, offices and conference rooms are lit by clerestory windows and borrowed light. Brick facades with punched windows reference the projects surrounding residential community and the neighboring juvenile center. A two-story glass atrium and three-story open staircase bring the public into the building. The complex’s four courtrooms, jury deliberation area, and the prosecuting attorney’s office are on the buildings upper floor. Discrete holding areas and a secure connection to the neighboring juvenile facility are separated from public, judge, and staff areas. The facility integrates the latest in court technology. All courtrooms and hearing rooms are equipped with integrated audio/video recording equipment, video conferencing technology, evidence presentation technology, and sound reinforcement. This system allows for reporters to monitor court proceedings from outside of the courtroom. The lobby also includes monitors outside courtrooms. HOK led programming, planning, and design on the $20.1 million project, with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based TowerPinkster managing the project and serving as architect of record. TowerPinkster also handed mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering.  Funding for the project came from state revenue and money saved by the circuit court over recent years. The new facility is designed to improve operational efficiency and security, while anticipating future needs of the court system.
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Thomas Phifer and Partners’ elegantly functional box saturated in daylight

The 10-story courthouse includes ten courtrooms for the District Court of Utah, fourteen judges’ chamber suites,  administrative Clerk of the Court offices, the United States Marshal Service, United States Probation, and other federal agencies.

Thomas Phifer and Partners recently completed a United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City for the General Services Administration (GSA). The 400,000 sq. ft. project consists of a blast resistant shell clad with a custom designed anodized aluminum sun screen. The screen is arranged in four configurations dependent on solar orientation, performing as a direct heat gain blocker on the south facades, while subtly changing to a louvered fin configuration on the east and west facades. The architects won the project in a national competition in the late nineties, however it was just recently completed. Thomas Phifer, Director of Thomas Phifer and Partners, says that during the duration of the project various site changes occurred, and the building design naturally evolved into a particular focus: “We began to think about a building that embodied light as a metaphor for the enlightenment of the courts. It began to fill these spaces inside the courtrooms, the judges chambers. The design came from a sense of light.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Benson Global (curtain wall)
  • Architects Thomas Phifer and Partners, Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects (executive architect)
  • Facade Installer Okland Construction
  • Facade Consultants Reaveley Engineers + Associates (structural engineering), Weidlinger Associates (blast engineering)
  • Location Salt Lake City, UT
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System Aluminum and Glass Unitized Curtain Wall, Insulating Glass with Ceramic Frit Screen, Anodized Extruded and Milled Aluminum Sun Screen, Mirror Polished Stainless Steel Plate, Thermal Finish White Granite
  • Products Benson Global (Anodized Aluminum Curtain Wall), Southwest Architectural Metals (Metal Specialties), Beehive Glass Inc. (Glass Specialties), Viracon, St. Gobain (Glass), Sierra White Granite (Cold Spring Granite Stone)
Phifer said a precedent for the project is Donald Judd’s 100 untitled works in mill aluminum (1982-1986). In Judd’s project, each of the boxes he crafted have the same outer dimensions, with a unique interior offering up a variety of tectonic conditions. Some of the boxes are transected, while others have recesses and partitions. Phifer says the project inspired an interest in detailing of the aluminum sun screen: “What’s interesting about his [Judd’s] boxes is their extreme simplicity: it’s important how the plates come together…the beautiful screws. You see the thickness of the aluminum, and the construction honors the material,” says Phifer. “The boxes begin to honor the light surrounding it.” The architects worked with the curtain wall contractor to develop a custom designed louver system from extruded and milled aluminum components to manage daylight. Everything had to be designed with calculations and technical documentation, including plenty of mock-ups. Phifer says this level of detailing is at the heart of their office’s production: “the facade system developed here was completely new.” This system is punctured in selective places on the facade with a polished stainless steel portal celebrating very specific spaces within the interior such as the judge’s chambers. “It has the character of receiving light and being a real part of the environment,” says Phifer on the outcomes of the decade-long project. The project could be considered a super-scaled descendant of one of Judd’s well-crafted boxes, but also should be a sophisticated addition to Thomas Phifer and Partners’ repertoire of working with light (a portfolio that includes a 2011 AIA Honor Award for the North Carolina Museum of Art). The results are a robust box, with a beautifully simple, passive performative agenda.
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SOM’s gravity-defying floating glass cube in DTLA

The building's pleated glass envelope contains 1,672 energy efficient panels that uniquely responds to its location.

SOM has floated a glass cube above a large stepped civic plaza negotiating a sloped site in downtown Los Angeles for their United States Courthouse project, scheduled to open July, 2016 with an anticipated LEED Platinum rating. The 633,000 square foot, 220 foot tall facility includes 24 daylight-filled courtrooms and 32 judges’ chambers. José Luis Palacios, Design Director at SOM Los Angeles, says this structural configuration was integral to the success of the project: “Our challenge was how to make a transparent building, both metaphorically and structurally.” The project is being labeled as one of the nation’s safest buildings in regards to bomb threats and earthquakes due to an innovative structural engineering concept which allows a large volume of building to “float” over a stone base protected with hardened-concrete shear walls. The outer 33 feet of cantilevered building is suspended from a three-dimensional steel “hat truss” system, freeing the need for columns at the perimeter and ground level. The trusses are efficiently designed through an optimization process which resulted in a material savings of over 13 percent when compared to conventional trusses.
  • Facade Manufacturer Benson Industries, LLC
  • Architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
  • Facade Installer Benson Industries, LLC
  • Facade Consultants Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Clack Construction Group (client/construction manager)
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion July 2016 (projected)
  • System High-performance unitized glass panels
  • Products Viracon Glass
The facade is comprised of a unitized 6’ wide by 20’ tall panel, organized into a ‘pleated’ zigzagged surface. By reconciling the downtown Los Angeles street grid, which runs 38 degrees east of true north, with optimum solar angles, the facade managed to reduce solar heat gain, harvest natural daylight, and maximize views into and out of the building. The pleating of the facade allows for a reduction in the radiant heat load of the building by 47 percent compared to a flat surface. Signage to the building is applied as a ceramic frit pattern to the glass of the pleated facade. The two-dimensional graphic, the ‘Great Seal of the United States,’ is projected onto the three dimensional facade, reinforcing the civic plaza and a frontal approach to the main entrance. As a result of the pleating, facade panels were broken down into two types: a “hot panel” and a “cold panel” side. Additional variation was introduced through internal program requirements, such as the Broadway and Hill Street facades where courtrooms consists of three internal layers of shades help to manage daylight from both sides of the courtroom. The modular, shop built assembly of panels is something Palacios says SOM is incorporating into an increasing amount of their projects today: “This gives us long-term durability, and seismic responsiveness: a great flexibility and resiliency.”
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SOM’s Los Angeles Federal Courthouse Breaks Ground

SOM's first major project in Los Angeles in years, the Los Angeles U.S. Courthouse, broke ground last week. Those in attendance included new LA mayor Eric Garcetti, who's just beginning his rounds of ceremonial events around the city. The downtown commission, located at First Street and Broadway, was awarded late last year. The 600,000 square foot building will include 24 courtrooms and 32 judicial chambers and will house the U.S. District Court and the Central District of California, among other facilities. Renderings reveal a serrated, glassy cube resting on a narrow, solid pedestal, and a sky-lit central courtyard at the building's core. The project is pursuing a LEED Platinum rating. The design build team also includes Clark Construction and Jacobs Project Management. Completion is scheduled for summer 2016.
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New Peeks at SOM’S LA Federal Courthouse

We’ve known for some time that SOM will be designing the new US Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles. We've even gotten some glimpses of their scheme. But the firm has just unveiled new images of the project, filling out the picture of this new landmark for the city on the corner of 1st Street and Broadway. The familiar image of a cube-like, 550,000-square-foot structure in the middle of the city is now accompanied by a closer view of a folded glass façade imbedded with a United States seal. The building, which floats above a central core, appears to cantilever outward on all sides, with ramps and a small park leading the way to the entry.  Inside we get a peek at a large central atrium rising several stories, and walls made of some kind of blond stone. Exposed central stairs appear to make climbing upward a public process. SOM is still unable to comment on their scheme, but we’ll let you know when that changes.
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Unveiled> SOM’s Los Angeles Courthouse Is a Shimmering White Cube

Last month AN reported that SOM had won the commission to design the new $400 million federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Today, designs for the new facility were unveiled (via our friends at LA Downtown News and Curbed LA), showing a cube-shaped structure with a porous white surface. So far only two renderings have hit the web, but SOM has promised to share more with us soon. Located at 107 S. Broadway, the project will contain 550,000 square feet (scaled down from an original 600,000). Completion is planned for 2016. Other finalists for the job included Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates with Hensel Phelps; Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects with McCarthy; and NBBJ with Mortensen. The GSA began taking solicitations for the project back in January. SOM recently opened a new LA office—currently working on a new medical education building at UCLA, the San Joaquin student housing complex at UCSB, and the new superior courthouse in San Diego—so things seem to be starting out pretty well for them in Tinseltown. SOM's LA office will work with their San Francisco office on the courthouse project.
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SOM Rumored to Have Been Chosen for Los Angeles Courthouse

AN has been anxiously awaiting official news of an architect for Los Angeles' long-awaited Downtown Federal Courthouse, and we've picked up the scent of a promising rumor. Brigham Young's DTLA Rising blog has heard from a "source at a large architectural and design firm in Downtown LA" that SOM has won the commission, beating out a short list of teams including Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates, Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects, and NBBJ Architects. The new $322 million courthouse will be located on a 3.7-acre lot in Downtown LA at 107 South Broadway and will contain 600,000 square feet incuding 24 court rooms. The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency in charge of building the new courthouse, hopes to have the project completed by 2016. The former art-deco courthouse  at 312 North Spring Street will be sold to help pay for the new structure, drawing criticism from some politicians. The GSA is expected to make an official announcement soon, and we'll be sure to keep you updated as news comes in.
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Congressmen Attack New LA Courthouse Proposal

Two congressmen really seem to have it in for the planned new U.S. courthouse and federal building in downtown Los Angeles, for which several prominent LA firms have been shortlisted. According to the LA Times, California Representative Jeff Denham earlier this month called the proposal a "sham," insisting that the judiciary should be able to share courtrooms more efficiently at their current spaces (there are currently two federal courthouses downtown). "I get it, I know these judges would love to have a much bigger, palatial courtroom with lots of extra room and big conference rooms," Denham said. "The question is, can we afford it?" Denham was joined by Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster, who noted: "It's outrageous that judges insist upon having their own courtrooms when they don't use them, when they spend much of the time vacant." But according to the General Services Administration (GSA) the courthouse is still moving ahead as planned, and an architect should be named this fall. An RFQ for the federal building will be released this fall as well. The GSA is looking for a private sector developer to buy the Spring Street Courthouse in order to help pay for the latter project.
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New Shortlist Jumpstarts Long-Stalled LA Courthouse

The biggest new architecture project in Los Angeles just got a much smaller list of candidates. The General Services Administration (GSA) has released the shortlist for the new U.S. Courthouse in LA, a design-build project where architects are partnered with builders. When completed, the building, located on a 3.7 acre lot at 107 South Broadway, will measure 600,000 square feet. It’s projected to cost $322 million and be completed by 2016. The shortlisted teams include: Skidmore Owings and Merrill with Clark Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates with Hensel Phelps Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects with McCarthy NBBJ Architects with Mortensen Shortlisted firms will now be expected to submit plans as part of a Request For Proposals. The winner is expected to be named by this August or September, and design is set to begin by the end of this year. Those who didn’t make the cut included Morphosis, Michael Maltzan Architects, Ehrlich Architects, AC Martin, Johnson Fain Architects, Fentress Architects, Rios Clementi Hale, and Cannon Design. Another exclusion was Perkins + Will, who GSA originally chose to design the project before it stalled several years ago.
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Preserving The Changes

In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA). While there was a contingent of people who were against the restoration because they believed in the historical worth of the WPA additions, in the end it was a question of money that killed the project. Restoring the courthouse was estimated to cost $5.7 million. THC was prepared to write a check for an initial $372,000 to get work started, but after that the state's commitment seemed murky and county commissioners balked at the possibility of being stuck with an obligation to finish the project on their own dime.