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  7. United States Courthouse, Salt Lake City / Thomas Phifer and Partners

United States Courthouse, Salt Lake City / Thomas Phifer and Partners

  • 01:00 - 19 January, 2015
United States Courthouse, Salt Lake City / Thomas Phifer and Partners
United States Courthouse, Salt Lake City / Thomas Phifer and Partners, © Scott Frances
© Scott Frances

© Scott Frances © Scott Frances © Scott Frances © Scott Frances +30

  • Architects

  • Location

    United States Courthouse, 351 West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, USA
  • Thomas Phifer Project Team

    Thomas Phifer AIA, Managing Partner Stephen Dayton AIA, Project Partner Mitch Crowder
, Ina Ko
, Katie Bennett
, Robert Chan
, Rebecca Garnett
, Andrew Mazor
, Jon Benner
, Chien Ho Hsu
  • Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects Team

    Ross Wentworth AIA, Principal, 
Sergey Akhpatelov AIA, Project Partner Steve Squires, Scott Smith, Erin Youngberg, Richard Judkins, Tyler Young, Barbara Fowler, Julio Garcia
  • Area

    400000.0 ft2
  • Project Year

  • Photographs

  • Landscape Architect

    E. A. Lyman Landscape Architects
  • Civil Engineer

    McNeil Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineer

    Van Boerum & Frank Associates
  • Structural Engineering

    Reaveley Engineers & Associates
  • Weidlinger Associates

    Blast Engineering
  • BNA Consulting Engineers

    Electrical Engineering
  • Lighting Design

    Fisher Marantz Stone
  • Associates Building Enclosure

    James Carpenter Design
  • Acoustics

  • Graphics

    Piscatello Design Centre
  • LEED Consultant

    CRSA Architecture
  • Elevators

    Lerch Bates Associates
  • Pool Design

    Water Design Inc.
  • Cost Estimating

    Parametrix Inc.
  • Artwork

    James Carpenter Design Associates
  • General Contractor

    Okland Construction
  • Client

    General Services Administration
  • More SpecsLess Specs
© Scott Frances
© Scott Frances

From the architect. The design of the new United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City emanates from our search for a form that is strong, iconic, transparent, and metaphorically egalitarian as a symbol of the American judiciary system. The resulting cubic mass of the new courthouse, like the monumental buttes of southern Utah, is just such a primary form, projecting grounded dignity, immovable order, and an equal face to all sides. The 400,000 square foot, 10-story courthouse resides in a garden setting on a level terrace encompassing the entire city block including an existing, historic Federal Courthouse. This garden terrace unites the two courthouses in a public-access amenity for the downtown area of Salt Lake City while establishing a required federal security setback from the street.

Ground Floor Plan
Ground Floor Plan

Site Plan Section Diagram Diagram +30

The building contains 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. Courts parking and service for both new and existing courthouses occurs on two underground levels.  Eight future courtrooms can be accommodated within the constructed volume by office relocation.  The main public entry occurs on West Temple Street, linking the courthouse to the civic core of the downtown area.

© Scott Frances
© Scott Frances

The building’s encompassing glass and aluminum façades expose the life of the courthouse to the city while providing expansive views from the public and office spaces within.  A quilt-work pattern of exterior, vertical aluminum sun screens tempers this transparency with a variable, protective veil that changes quietly with the solar orientation and the interior use.  The softly reflective anodized finish along with the crystalline transparency of glass accentuates the distinctive quality of natural light in this pastorally urban setting as the sun passes over the luminescent Wasatch Mountains and across the Great Salt Lake.

© Scott Frances
© Scott Frances
© Scott Frances
© Scott Frances

This LEED Gold building, in its interior planning, celebrates daylight as an intrinsic quality of both public and individual space. The three-story main entry lobby occupies the southwest corner of the building serving as a beacon to the two primary streets and marking a cornerstone of the broader downtown area. In the core of the building, a sky-lit atrium extending the height of the building brings natural daylight to the centrally located public elevator lobbies. This atrium will contain a 10-story sculptural glass art installation by the renowned American glass artist James Carpenter that further siphons natural daylight into the space. From here, public waiting areas extend north and south to the building perimeter creating a light-filled central axis. The primary functions of the building – the courtrooms – occupy the four corners of the building, bathed in filtered natural daylight, bringing clarity and context to the proceedings within.

© Scott Frances
© Scott Frances

The new United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City strives to embody the ideals and aspirations of the American judiciary system - clarity of order, transparency of process, fairness of disposition and timeless relevance - in a building that invites participation, illuminates its civic purpose, and celebrates the extraordinary qualities of nature that characterize this region.

© Scott Frances
© Scott Frances
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "United States Courthouse, Salt Lake City / Thomas Phifer and Partners" 19 Jan 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Stephen Alesch · January 23, 2015

Elegant is too easy, why because its thin and light? A "foggy aura"? My god. Our courthouses should not be invented newforms produced overnight or during 2 or 3 day over eager charettes. I imagine they might convey solidity, steadglfastness, trustworthyness and reliability. This sort of architecture should be as steady and familar as PANTS in my opinion, not a redifinition or innovation like mens lingerie or some other newform. Save that for malls, architects homes and schoolwork. Btw - these Ads on Arch Daily have made this post an absolute nightmare to type, almost as bad as having to put up with the bad architecture and old fashioned modernism cliches that fill this site from top to bottom.

Chris · January 23, 2015 02:23 PM

Thin and light is one aspect of elegance, sure.

This project is a cube, hardly an invented new form. And why would it be a cube? I mean they could have invented any new form right? I would be inclined to think the architect was hyper aware of the fact that classical architecture often is derived from a cube. Villa Rotunda, Pantheon, etc.. Why would the upper windows abruptly stop at the same horizontal line all the way around the cube? It it possible that the lower rectangle defined by this datum line is a golden rectangle, yet another proportional tool from classical architecture? This building sits right next door to a traditionally classical building, so perhaps the large glazed opening at ground level mimics the spacing of the pilasters of that building. Given it's adjacency to this traditional building, isn't it better to not match at all (I mean you wouldn't wear a khaki shirt with khaki pants would you?) but pull references and datums to blend in a little less literally?

I have no idea about the validity of any of this but these are questions I ask myself as I look at it. The project to me looks like a diagram of classical proportions, which is just one architects way of reinventing classical tools. In my opinion it creates a far more interesting building than a literal representation of classical architecture would. But clearly that is subjective. Is it okay to be proportionately familiar but aesthetically unfamiliar? Does it have to have columns and stone to convey solidity?

I have a feeling that a lot of the criticism of this project is geared towards contemporary architecture as a whole, which I agree should be heavily criticized because most of it is terrible. The comments I have read have not broken this project down into why it is not good architecture because it doesn't seem that anybody can get past the aesthetics to discuss the architecture.

notimportant · January 21, 2015

Wow, the negativity in the comments astonishes me... I think this is done very elegantly.

Steven Goodwin · January 22, 2015 07:32 PM

Elegant and/or cool are non descriptors and do not convey a paradigm for a government of the people. "You will be assimilated" is not the message the people want to hear and that is exactly the response here in Salt Lake City. Your comment underscores the aloofness of the design professionals.

aojwny · January 22, 2015 07:20 PM

It is elegant for a giant glass box. It's just not the form that I would consider appropriate for a major public building that should be representing justice for all. An ice cube doesn't cut it.

Harshavardhan Moghe · January 21, 2015

I am reading many comments and some are negative. However, this architecture,United States Courthouse – Salt Lake City / Thomas Phifer and Partners, is beautiful! I only say this from an aesthetical and contextual viewpoints. However, it is a bit weird what sort of era it expresses - it looks very light and does not reflect the 'dignity' that I'd like to see of jurisdictional sectors. It certainly brings down the value of dignity.
From interior view point, it is quite unclear as there are not enough photographs.

stevemouzon · January 22, 2015 08:12 PM

Just curious what context this building reflects beautifully? I'm not sure where it's located in the city, but can't imagine how it's considered to be contextual.

Jake Groth · January 20, 2015

I find the photo representation to be unsettling. I understand the photographer is trying to empathize the light quality, but I feel as if i need to wear sunglasses to look at the photos. It also seems unrealistic and has a lot of post production. It would be great to see some actual people in the photos. All of this adds to the stark, imposing nature of the building and photography.

Gerald Forsburg · January 19, 2015

Would work better as a jail house design... oh, wait, we are talking about the American Judicial system where you are guilty unless you can afford an attorney to prove you're less guilt. In that case, well done...

"clarity of order, transparency of process, fairness of disposition and timeless relevance " HA! Especially "timeless relevance". This design is already dated - to the 1970's!

The cost to maintain this structure (cooling, glass cleaning, etc) ironically will mimic the American judicial system as well - expensive!

Ryder · January 20, 2015 01:36 PM

This building won't be as costly as you assume to heat or cool, the louvers on the facade will help to reduce heat gain that occurs when daylight isn't filtered into a building. The building was given a LEED Gold certification so it must've achieved met some of the energy goals set by LEED to reduce energy consumption.

Chris · January 19, 2015 09:23 PM

This is an architecture website not a political website, and that is not to say that architecture is apolitical, but essentially your architectural criticism is that in your opinion this is going to be expensive to cool (in Utah) and expensive to clean the glass? Thanks for chiming in.

Crit · January 19, 2015

Scale figures in the plans are hilarious.
IKBlue is a nice touch though.
Nice conservative project for Uncle Sam

Chris · January 19, 2015 06:32 PM

What about it is conservative?

Croco Dile · January 19, 2015

Hard do judge the "daylight as an intrinsic quality" when shown only one interior.

Thayer-D · January 19, 2015 03:09 PM

Easy to judge how hostile and cold this building will be. Just amazing how hideous this thing is.


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© Scott Frances

美国盐湖城法院大楼 /Thomas Phifer and Partners