Posts tagged with "Courthouses":
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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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.” 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.
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. 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.”