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Entrant Name
DLR Group

Design Team
Designer: DLR Group ARchitecture: DLR Group Interiors: DLR Group Site: Wood Rodgers

Collaborators
Electrical Engineering: Alta Consulting Services Mechanical Engineering: Capital Engineering Consultants Structural Engineering: Buehler & Buehler SE General Contractor: McCarthy

Owner / Client
Owner: Administrative Office of the Court (CA)

Calaveras County New San Andreas Courthouse

All Submissions > Scale 2: Building Scale

Language of security elevated.

The design and planning of the new Calaveras County courthouse was deeply influenced by the natural setting in which it resides. To harmonize with the delicate oak woodlands and sloping topography, the more traditional elements of civic architecture such as symmetry, density, and verticality were replaced with asymmetrical compositions, horizontal expression, and an increased level of transparency. The resulting architecture is a contemporary solution that embraces the functionality of modern courthouse planning in an unconventional setting.

The base of the building references traditional design elements by anchoring the building on the site. Mitigating the extreme grade changes, free flowing and organic but weighted and grounded in its materiality, it becomes the wellspring from which the upper floors emanate. Programmatically, the first floor functions reflect the same ideas. The clerk of court, jury assembly and the court support offices are all housed on the first level. These components are the foundation and support network to the court system. The upper level of the building is ordered, orthogonal, and balanced. Here, the courtrooms are expressed in juxtaposition against the base. Just as the court system provides order and guidance to our changing society, this literal interpretation provides a resolution to the building massing. At the roof line, the courtroom volumes are expressed against a datum of metal which echoes the mountains beyond as they rise above the horizon.

Early client goal setting sessions focused on developing a building that welcomed the public while creating a safe and secure work environment. In the new building, these core values manifest themselves via separate circulation systems for public, staff, and prisoner movement, thus avoiding potentially unsafe interaction. Security measures are balanced with transparency and openness throughout the facility. The intimate scale of the new courthouse allowed the design team to really push the envelope with the use of natural light. Courtrooms have borrowed light from roof top clerestories and individual skylights. The Great Hall has a two-story glass curtain wall facade on the north and south elevation with a large central skylight bringing in filtered light from above. The connection to the outdoors is extended in a literal sense with two private balconies that allow the staff to convene at both the first and second level. The level of transparency and connection between inside and out speaks to the client’s goals of balancing security and openness while simultaneously creating a reverential civic space.