Ruy Barbosa Labor Courthouse / Decio Tozzi

Architect: Decio Tozzi
Location: Sao Paulo,
Architects in Charge: & Karla Albuquerque
Square’s chromatic panel: Decio Tozzi
Artistic panel in the auditorium: Claudio Tozzi
Structural engineers (concrete): SVS Engenharia
Structural engineers (steel): Jorge Zaven Kurkdjian, Jorge Kurken Kurkdjian
Fundations: Consultrix
Services: MHA Engenharia
Construction: Construtora Incal / Construtora OAS
Site Area: 15,228.91 sqm
Constructed Area: 124,000 sqm
Conclusion date: 2004
Photographs: Cristiano Mascaro

The traditional buildings for courthouses up to the beginning of the twentieth century, designed according to the conceptual ideas of the Grand Prix de Rome, were distinguished by their formal structures inspired by classical architecture and conveyed the idea of sumptuous monumentality.

Furthermore, solemn spaces expressed an Apollonian aspect that not only indicated the austerity of Power but also its authority as if this authoritarian image of Justice coincided with the image of a society which was also authoritarian.

The great solemn halls of Justice, the Salas dos Passos Perdidos, exhibited this monumentality not only through the scale of the building but also through the use of sumptuous construction materials.

The conceptual issue underlying the design of this courthouse was how one may propose, within a democratic metropolitan post-industrial society, a new formal structure, a semantic expression of such an important type of public building architecture and at the same time to make its insertion in the city capable of expressing a singular relationship carrying both meanings, that is a metaphor of the metropolis in itself.

The centralization of the several sections of the Labor Courts previously scattered throughout the city and its ensuing verticality, conquering air space, comprised the first guideline towards the proposal of a vertical architectonic concept.

The design of the building, following this vertical axis, organizes the four blocks of the courts, two by two, separated by double height empty spaces where collective support activities pertaining to the daily life of the judiciary complex take place.

This vertical concept gives shape to a great central empty space designed to integrate the whole complex. The unlimited visibility and full spatial integration due to the spatial fluidity bestow the necessary transparency that the bureaucratic activities require, and offer to the administrative sections of the building a global appreciation of the work being done, and the necessary rationality inherent to these activities.

This generous 50 m by 50 m area has transparent walls and roof and becomes a new access and distribution space, a feature of integration for the whole courthouse complex.

The previous solemn hall, authoritarian and majestic, finds a new meaning: the Law Square, designed to represent a new square for the city of São Paulo. On the ground floor level there is a restaurant, a bank, a telephone center, a post office, a bookshop and a 500-seat auditorium which is open to the community.

The vertical circulation is made through twenty fast lifts, four of which are restricted to the private use of the judges. All the floors are interconnected with a system of multiple ramps that very effectively comply with the required circulation of approximately 20,000 people per day.

The glass roof covering the Law Square is placed at the height of 72 meters above the ground floor level, and was treated as a feature of modular design that has the characteristics of a muxarabiê suspended in the air, an effect obtained simply through the alternation of different polyvinyl butyral interlayers – a sunlight controlling panel within the square space.

Since it was so designed the space configures a new square in the city of São Paulo due to its scale and volumetric configuration – a square bathed in sunlight but protected from rain and wind, proposed as a meeting place,a space for social intercourse and harmony between peoples.

Cite: "Ruy Barbosa Labor Courthouse / Decio Tozzi" 12 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • rut

    this is a typical building where i cannot see the human scale.
    It looks more like a productionmachine than a building.

  • imagine

    remind me about 80′s or 70′s form

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  • 16:08:78

    Yeah lets make a an extensive concrete building so that it resembles law & safety, this is old school theme for a contemporary building……………… this is the second BAD building from Brazil this week the first one been the pavilion…………. shame.

    • corbu

      there is no age for buildings, architecture is intemporal

  • 16:08:78

    Yeah lets make an extensive concrete building so that it resembles law & safety, this is old school theme for a contemporary building,(circles in the middle looks decorative)……………… this is the second BAD building from Brazil this week the first one been the pavilion…………. shame.

  • Guilherme

    This building was projected in the 90´s. It costed 10x more than expected. The judge that managed the construction received more than U$50millions. Here it is an interview with him in portuguese:
    It´s really a shame.

  • Opium

    Not too bad…khan meets the ford corporation building by roche meets the vodafone lisbon headquarters…Kind of softcore totalirian architecture…If you are corporation director this will certainly make you feel powerfull.This will the setting of some nice science fiction movies…Para os Paulistas que têm que levar com aquela fachada…enfim,os meus pesâmes,mas ha pior..vamos pensar positivo podia ser o gehry ou zaha hadid e aí ainda ia custar umas 3 vezes mais.

  • MC

    Brazilian contemporary architecture is (generally speaking) very mediocre and way bellow average its ‘similars’ (Argentina, Chile, Mexico…)

    Except from a handful of good design-oriented practices (which confirms the rule)

    This monstruous outdated dinossaur and the incredibly HORRIBLE Brazilian Shangai pavilion are reverses of the same coin

    it’s a shame

  • MC


    Just a piece of informaton: guess how much did Gehry’s Bilbao cost?

    U$ 120 million / more or less U$ 5.000/m2 (not too much for a titanium avantgart piece of architecture like that)

    The Ayrton Senna Tunnel is SP costed per linear m twice as much the Channel Tunnel (London-Paris)

    Check out how much this dinossaur has cost by square metre

    THAT is a shame

  • Ralf

    The “big void” is almost old fashion.

  • Karimi

    I actually think its a beautiful building. The forms and spaces may be a bit dated, but other than that I think its a rather nice combination of L.Kahn and Jean Nouvel.

  • Mark

    I like this project, specially the interior plaza, I believe there is much criticize here without any real understanding of the projects. People stop being so superficial…let’s just not worry about the looks
    Just my 2 cents…

  • claude

    law courts? or jail?
    as soon as you enter you are already a convit!

  • Mr. Cheap

    To me this is amazing architecture. It is an intensly efficient office building in terms of organization, but it achieves what so many efficient office buildings do not, -having people meet. There seems to be an idea of the base city floor, a good idea when it comes to the location next to the highway. Next is the middle floor with doubleheight, and third is the careful consideration of the roof. Also, the stairs and the way they are interwoven creates a lot of movement and possibilities for interaction in this building. I think I would like to move by foot in this building rather than take the elevator, -that is an achievement for a building this tall. Not too steep stairs, with a really nice view.

    Congratulations to the people who paid up for it, and congratulations to the brilliant architect !

  • JuanLuisBurke

    Yes, the meeting plaza is an interesting concept, other than that, the building is quite brutal, quite cold, which I thought contemporary architecture was trying to move away from. On the other hand though, the building is totally 80s looking, so that might explain it.

  • Mr. Cheap

    OK, so your architectural style and looks investigation reveals that this is similar to what could be done in the 80s. In year 2050 when this building still exsists, I think it will be as capable and as good as it is now, -while all the shit built between 1990 and 2010 will be suffering for challenges, and have improved none of their qualities. To me this building, like so many other by this architect, are very much timeless modernist buildings. This is like an idea from 1910, -to me it looks more like corbusier than anything the idiots of the 80s came up with.

  • MC

    I am sorry Mr. Cheap, but this has nothing to do with Corbusier.

    And We just have to compare this building to Roger’s Lloyd (1978-1986) to see how this kind of space was much better designed by some of the ‘idiots from the 80′s’ than by this ‘timeless modernist’ 30 years later.

    It is not that this is so bad or horrible (the scale itself makes it somehow impressive).
    It is just mediocre and outdated, but it is ok, after all we cannot expect only to have incredible buildings.

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  • Bak

    Typically Sao Paulo school architecture, and that’s probably one of the reasons why I like it. I hope they can preserve their style, and not get all ‘western’(with that thing called ‘globalization’ and all, hehe).

  • http://link driver54

    These people are dysfunctional savages. ,

  • henrique

    get your opinion about a building analysing only its style it’s not very mature… 20 years ago and all of us would be saying lovely things about michael graves and others…

    i just think that, as a public space,this inside square was a great decision and as a brazilian, I’m sure to say that this square meter cost was not construction’s fault, but politics, everybody overpriced everything in this construction to get easy money from the corrupt goverment