Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design and Gruen Associates have shared with us their second place proposal for the highly anticipated design-build competition for the new United States courthouse in Los Angeles, California. Envisioned as an icon within the city skyline, the triangular monolith provides a sustainable, 21st century courthouse that embodies the democratic qualities of dignity, stature, transparency, openness and accessibility.
Located at a pivotal node connecting the Los Angeles Civic Center, the Broadway Historic District and Bunker Hill, the 550,000 square foot courthouse is surrounded by a lush civic space that plays an important role in the existing cityscape.
Read the architect’s description after the break…
Historically, the design of American Courthouses has celebrated the ideals of justice and equality under the law and encouraged open public participation in the democratic process. Physically, functionally, and symbolically, the courthouse has been the centerpiece of its community. Today’s courthouses face issues that necessarily reframe the parameters of aesthetics and symbolism. Security, sustainability, and economy now significantly influence the design.
However, the values expressed in the courthouse of the past reverberate still in the public consciousness, and are an indelible part of this proposed design for the New U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles. It is an iconic addition to the Los Angeles skyline. It embodies and promotes the enduring democratic qualities of dignity, stature, transparency, openness and accessibility. It continues the tradition of providing a sense of place and continuity within the fabric of urban open spaces at the Civic Center.
The proposed Courthouse is triangular in plan, with two courtrooms and three judges chambers on each floor, offering a functional organization of striking clarity, with an efficient separation of public, restricted, and secure circulation. The triangle also serves as a symbolic representation of the three essential constituents of the American judicial process – judge, jury and litigants.
This translates to a bold exterior form, easily comprehended, and unique in the city’s skyline. The crest of the tower slopes diagonally skyward, evoking in modern terms the classical pediment of the traditional courthouse. It also engages an aesthetic dialogue with the stepped pyramidal peak of City Hall. These two essential civic buildings, of similar height, visually resonate with one another across the eighty years and two city blocks that separate them.
The tower massing distinguishes the building from the adjacent collection of lower slab-shaped buildings along First Street and Broadway. The building pays homage to the historic planning guidelines that once restricted the height of buildings by cresting just a few feet below the top of City Hall. The Courthouse has an extraordinary opportunity to reinforce the landscape character in downtown.
The Courthouse entrance, at the corner of First Street and Broadway, is recognizable from a distance as the arrival point for visitors. From the top of these steps, a visitor looking east toward City Hall can easily recognize the significant role that the Courthouse occupies, physically and symbolically, within the government precinct of downtown Los Angeles.The entrance also celebrates the clarity, transparency, fairness and accessibility of the American judicial system.
The aesthetics of the design emerged from the challenge of the rotated city grid and an intelligent response to the Southern California climate and the path of the sun. The orientation of the triangular floor plate was modeled to minimize solar heat gain, shading western and eastern exposures with projecting metal fins. Due to the rotation of the city grid 45o from the north-south axis, a rectangular form on the grid is less effective than the rotated triangle in controlling heat gain. The concept relied on a multi-disciplinary approach to mechanical systems, lighting systems, water use, site development and material selection to enhance sustainability for the long term.
The Courtroom design treatment recalls the building’s exterior. Like the corners of the building, the corners of the room are radiused. A cloud shaped coffer at the center of the ceiling, contains fluted acoustical panels reminiscent of the fluting of the exterior facades. Ambient lighting is concealed in the cove and between the flutes to reduce glare and improve legibility in the space. The flutes also integrate HVAC diffusers and speakers in an unobtrusive way.
Architects: Design Architect: Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design Architect of Record: Gruen Associates Client: General Services Administration General Contractor: Hensel Phelps Construction Co. Landscape Architecture & Urban Design: Rios Clementi Hale Studios Structural: Weidlinger Associates Sustainability / MEP: Arup Civil: KPFF Engineers