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Entrant Name

Design Team

Architect: NBBJ General Contractor: Gilbane Building Company Structural Engineering: Thornton Tomasetti Civil Engineering: Psomas Mechanical & Electrical Design Consulting: IBE Consulting Engineers Landscape Architecture: Mia Lehrer + Associates Mechanical & Plumbing Engineer & Subcontractor: Smith Electric Blast Consulting: Hinman Consulting Engineers Technology & Acoustical Consulting: Waveguide Consulting, Inc. Concrete Subcontractor: TB Penick and Sons Electrical Engineer & Subcontractor: Thoma Electric Glazing Subcontractor: Tower Glass

Owner / Client
General Services Administration [GSA]

Bakersfield United States Courthouse

All Submissions > Scale 2: Building Scale

Inspiring Civic Engagement
On the edge of downtown’s Central Park, the Bakersfield United States Courthouse is a modern interpretation of the quintessential American courthouse on the village green. The 38,000-square-foot, one-courtroom building’s ambitious design approach uses finely crafted white concrete to marry high with low-tech sensibilities, elegance with frugality. A product of deep team collaboration and innovation, the building celebrates the value of meticulous design and craftsmanship and advances the spirit of California Modernism.

The project represents a major contribution to Bakersfield’s initiative to reinvest in the Mill Creek urban promenade, which is serving as a catalyst for local improvements with broad community benefit.
The building and its landscape are designed to enhance community life in the downtown park. In addition to providing a rich architectural expression and an engaging demonstration garden, the building’s lobby displays five large and vibrant paintings that are thoughtfully positioned to be shared with park visitors outside.

A Modern Civic Experience: Beauty & High Performance
The project is part of the legacy of American civic architecture that celebrates grand human experience and is now evolving to emphasize performance, public value, and resource conservation. Active and passive conservation strategies result in 45% less energy use than a comparable new building—a significant accomplishment for this high-security, rigorously prescriptive building type.

In addition to active systems used to reduce consumption, the building’s design employs natural assets to create powerful, human-centered experiences while passively improving performance. The west-facing articulated window wall shades the public lobby and provides expansive views to the park beyond. In the courtroom, natural light evokes a sense of peace and heightens acuity while reducing demand for electric lighting. The courthouse garden’s drought-tolerant, vibrant native plantings provide a comfortable respite while contributing to water-use reduction.

Innovation Through Collaboration & Craft
In 2009, this project was the Federal government’s first test of design-build to deliver legacy-quality works of architecture with high-performance outcomes—while simultaneously creating jobs in a time of national crisis. This unprecedented, expedited delivery used the GSA Design Excellence peer-review process to push the team’s ideas to the highest levels of resolution and uncompromised quality.

The building’s white-concrete envelope is emblematic of the project’s creative risk-taking, pushing the potential of site-cast technology to a new level. In this medium, the integrated design-build team took full advantage of their collaborative relationship to develop a building tectonic that integrates aesthetic design, engineering, and construction excellence.