Spotlight – 2007 Justice Facilities Review

The American Institute of Architects Academy of Architecture for Justice will in September publish the 2007 Justice Facilities Review, a collection of justice facility projects that demonstrate quality of form, functionality and architectural responses to complex justice design issues, according to the AAJ. The review will be featured at the AAJ 2007 conference on Sept. 26 in New York.

This year, 27 projects were selected by a six-member jury, including the following eight projects that were recognized with citations of excellence. For more information, visit


Adams County Communications Center, Commerce City, Colo.

Architect’s Statement

This addition and remodel to an emergency call center facilitates better communications and call dispatching services by providing the staff with a secure, calm and comfortable environment that is supplemented by natural daylight and a variety of spaces for respite.

The 6,545-square-foot addition is designed to house a new dispatch center, support space, offices and lounge. The addition’s L-shaped organization is reinforced by a secure masonry exterior and a naturally daylighted zone that activates the space between the existing building and the addition.

The massing and masonry modulation of the existing building is referenced and reinterpreted in the addition on both the exterior and interior. Natural daylighting is maximized by clerestory lighting and diffused natural light from the south and west lobbies and lounge areas.


Type of facility: Emergency call center
Type of construction: Addition/renovation
Site area: 51,800 SF
Area of building:14,347 GSF
Construction cost: $2.2 million
Status of project: Completed 2003


Owner: Adcom 911 Inc.
Architect: Roth + Sheppard Architects, Denver
Design-build architect: Adolfson and Peterson Photographer: Ed LaCasse, LaCasse Photography, Denver

The simplified geometry, honest structural expression and natural material palette combine to create an environment that has a calming influence on the high stress emotions of the dispatcher.

Jury’s Statement

This building embodies an elegant restraint that at once elevates the building itself, while simultaneously being perfectly in tune with its mission. An L-shaped addition surrounds an existing structure with a hard skin that is broken only twice at front and rear to reveal the warm interior.

Generous natural light is provided throughout the structure via secure clerestory windows, thereby enhancing the interior experience without reducing the security of the building. The appropriateness of the clean lines and quiet design to the function of the building is striking and admirable.


Bronx County Hall of Justice, New York

Architect’s Statement

The image of the courthouse in society was of primary concern in the design of the building. The program is organized in a linear manner around an open civic space and layered from public to private, with the public circulation animated by a series of antilevered stairs, facing the open space.

Within the courtyard, a free-standing public building serves as a jury assembly room, gives scale to the space, and is the symbolic and formal focus of the project. The exterior wall design responds to the various functions and orientates the building. The curtain wall facing the south and west takes the shape of a folded plane with integrated light shelves that reflect light into the courtrooms and shade the adjacent corridor. The intent is to express the building as open and inviting, a metaphor for the transparency of the judicial process.

 Jury’s Statement


Type of facility: Courthouse
Type of construction: New
Site area: 3.4 acres
Area of building: 775,000 GSF
Capacity: 47 courts
Construction cost: $232 million
Status of project: Completed 2006


Owner: Department of Citywide Administrative Services, New York
Architect: Rafael Vinoly Architects, New York

The glass curtain walls create two front-to-back architectural expressions, separate yet harmonious. These glass walls are elegant in their luminosity and play with sunlight. The building is complex, yet all spaces relate well to one another, generating the feel of simplicity. The public areas are particularly dramatic. The placement of the jury rooms immediately on the entry area impressed the jury. It expresses respect for and celebration of this critical facet of citizenship. The building’s relationship to the well-designed plaza also impressed the jury.


Davenport U.S. Courthouse Renovation, Davenport, Iowa

Architect’s Statement

The mission of this project was to restore, renovate and convert a treasured National Register multiple-tenant federal building and courthouse into an expanded U.S. Courts dedicated facility.

Continued criminal caseload growth, poor inmate transportation and security, insufficient space to expand court operations and an aging infrastructure rendered the historical building inadequate. The program included upgrading and restoring the historic courtroom; adding two new courtrooms, support space, and three new judges chambers; expanding court-related offices; and adding new prisoner holding facilities and a secure judges parking area.

The design removes previous renovations, exposes and restores significant original interior features and introduces a textured glass wall paralleling the original public lobby, beyond which two new courtrooms and support space are inserted.


Type of facility: Courthouse
Type of construction: Addition, renovation, restoration and preservation
Site area: 0.7 acre
Area of building: 79,853 GSF
Capacity: 3 courtrooms
Construction cost: $15.6 million
Status of project: Completed 2006  


Owner: U.S. General Services Administration, Heartland Region, Kansas City, Mo.
Architect of record: Downing Architects PC, Bettendorf, Iowa
Design architect: Leonard Parker Associates, a part of The Durrant Group, Minneapolis, Minn.
Photographer: Don Wong Photo Inc., Bloomington, Minn.

The courthouse renovation preserves and restores key historic interior features; provides a high level of functionality; responds to separation of public, restricted and secure circulation; and gives contemporary interior treatment to space outside those identified for restoration.

 Jury’s Statement

The restoration and renovation of a former 1930s U.S. Post Office and Courthouse presented a particular challenge that may be presented with increased frequency: renovating and modernizing an older courthouse to meet current requirements for courthouses.

The architect met this challenge with stunning success by maximizing limited space with respect for the preservation of beautiful interior materials and fixtures.


Plymouth Public Safety Building and City Hall, Plymouth, Minn.

Architect’s Statement

Responding to the city’s need to provide an additional area for the Public Safety Department and an enclosed garage for police vehicles, we took a step back and planned the entire municipal site.

The incorporation of these programmatic elements with the existing City Hall unifies the complex and supports the natural setting. The secured squad garage is built under and into the natural bowl, reserving additional city park areas and providing the necessary security separation of police and staff vehicles. The landscape articulates and supports this gesture through native plants and low stone walls.


Type of facility: Multiple use
Type of construction: Addition/renovation
Site area: 8.97 acres
Area of building: 48,484 GSF
Capacity: 258 (67 sworn officers, 191 civilians)
Construction cost: $8.6 million
Status of project: Completed 2006


Owner: Plymouth Public Safety Building and City Hall, Plymouth, Minn.
Architect: Boarman Kroos Vogel Group (BKV Group), Minneapolis, Minn.
Photographer: Paul Crosby, St. Paul, Minn.

The main entrance to the public safety department and city hall is unified by a singular new entrance and lobby. The new public safety department space is a seamless addition to the existing building and the new public lobby connects the original public safety department and city hall elements and gives the resultant structure a new civic presence.

 Jury’s Statement

The jury was impressed with this elegant new addition. The well-crafted pergola at the entry presents a new stronger image yet manages to extend a more welcoming invitation to the public. The project philosophically and literally connects two disparate buildings into a unified whole in an exuberant manner. The jury admired the architect’s ability to maximize the site by burying the secured parking underground and maintaining the terraces that draw the surrounding landscape into the project. The project submittal reflects the clarity and care of presentation the program is seeking.


Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Federal Courthouse, Miami

Architect’s Statement

The building is composed of three elements: two opposing towers and a glass crystal that mediates. There are four courtrooms on each of the upper floors, grouped around a central circulation space that is punctured by a cone-shaped atrium. The east and west façades are composed of alternating concave and convex curtain wall bay windows surrounded by precast stone frames. The alternating rhythms, depths and colors of the horizontal and vertical sunshades frame the blue-green tinted glass.

The primary material for the north and south façade of the tower is the same precast stone used to frame the curtain wall, providing solidity to the elevations. The monumental windows are arranged horizontally and vertically, each orientation and fenestration unique, reflecting the hierarchy between office space and courtroom functions. The architecture is meant to reflect the importance of what goes on inside making the building a recognizable icon both day and night.

Jury’s Statement


Type of facility: Courthouse
Type of construction: New
Site area: 6.5 acres
Area of building: 577,785 GSF
Capacity: 14 courts (possible expansion to 16 courts)
Total cost of construction: $163 million
Status of project: Completed 2007


Owner: U.S. General Services Administration, Region 4, Atlanta
Architect: Arquitectonica, Miami

The courthouse captures innovation in an attractive and forward-looking manner. The placement of paired courtrooms on each side of an open circulation area, pieced by a glass atrium, breaks the standard arrangement and provides an open feel to this area. Well-balanced proportions in the building are achieved by dividing it into two halves mediated by a glass inclusion. The building’s unique fenestration admirably accomplishes the task of presenting a building that is iconic, day or night.


San Francisco Juvenile Hall Replacement Project, San Francisco

Architect’s Statement

The new juvenile justice center is a state-of-the-art, 150-bed secure detention facility that replaces the existing facility on the same site and creates a new public identity for juvenile justice. It provides five housing types for program and management flexibility. Each of the eight direct supervision housing units includes program and activity spaces for staff efficiency, safety and security.

Unit designs vary according to classifications — single sleeping rooms for high-security classifications and double rooms for the general population. Environmental quality, abundant natural light and artwork integrated into the design reduce tension and assist staff in managing the population.

Jury’s Statement


Type of facility: Juvenile detention
Type of construction: New
Site area: 6.3 acres
Area of building: 96,700 GSF
Capacity: 150 beds (70 beds in single and 80 beds in double rooms, all wet cells)
Total cost of construction: $43.7 million
Status of project: Completed


Owner: City and County of San Francisco Architect: The Design Partnership, San Francisco
Photographer: Bernard Andre Photography, Woodside, Calif.

The San Francisco Juvenile Hall Replacement Project is an exceptionally well-planned architectural expression, so much so that it almost sings. The design that followed the contour of the terrain and blended well with the neighboring residential areas was a tremendous response to the site. It also reduced the linear feeling often found in such projects and aided in creating a stimulating environment.

The interior mixes well with the exterior by integrating the public art from outside. The overall massing of the project is pleasing and maximizes light in the interior. There is a certain playfulness in the fenestration that lightens what is often a dark, heavy feeling in such structures. But the purpose of the facility was not forgotten as the lines of sight offer superior functionality in a facility where supervision is critical.

This is an excellent example of what those doing detention work can accomplish and how design can create an environment that is conducive to change within a structure that must also be secure.


Snohomish County Jail Expansion, Everett, Wash.

Architect’s Statement

The county jail expansion’s form and appearance are drawn from its unique setting and overarching goal to improve conditions for staff and inmates. The county’s decision to jointly operate the new downtown facility with an existing, adjacent jail was combined with an urban planning strategy that created a multiple-block civic campus.

The project’s overall massing and details complement these public spaces. Key to the design concept was a city zoning variance dictating the jail expansion should not “look like a jail.” Its fritted-glass curtain wall façade achieves this in two ways: by obscuring typical concrete walls and narrow jail window patterns during the day and creating ethereal and unexpected patterns of diffused light from cells at night. By including video visitation facilities and secure connections between the separate jail buildings and courts, the facility offers safer inmate movement for staff and increased inmate availability for attorney and family visits.

Jury’s Statement


Type of facility: Correctional, court and detention
Type of construction: Addition/renovation
Site area: 104,000 SF
Area of building: 278,000 GSF
Capacity: 640 beds
Total cost of construction: $86.5 million
Status of project: Completed 2006  


Owner: Snohomish County, Wash.
Architect: NBBJ, Seattle
Photographer: Frank Ooms, Denver

The Sonhomish County Jail represents a unique and exemplary response to housing a major detention facility in the urban civic center of Everett , Wash. The glass rain skin transforms what would otherwise be an opaque, heavy institutional building into a light and transparent addition to the civic center, becoming a good neighbor to both adjacent county buildings and the surrounding community.

At the same time, the architect has provided a positive environment for staff and residents by focusing on providing abundant natural light from adjacent outdoor recreation areas which are tiered to increase access to natural light. Of particular note is the overall planning of the facility and the housing units which provides a variety of program spaces, in a simple and efficient parti.

Also noted was an attention to detail in implementing the direct supervision operational program, as evidenced by the location and open design of the officers station. The architect has successfully responded to the urban context of the site and city as well as requirements of the operational model and program. 


Wayne Lyman Morse U.S. Courthouse, Eugene, Ore.

Architect’s Statement

The Wayne Lyman Morse U.S. Courthouse in Eugene, Ore., serves Oregon as part of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. The 4-acre site is the previous home of the Agripac cannery plant and is regarded by the city as an impetus for redeveloping the surrounding area with civic and commercial development.

Rising 72 feet high, the 81,360-square-foot courthouse has five stories above grade and one level of below-grade parking. The first two floors hold offices for the courts, the U.S. Attorney, probation and pretrial services, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. General Services Administration, two U.S. senators, and one member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The building’s six courtrooms, all on the third floor, are paired by their purpose — two district, two magistrate and two bankruptcy courtrooms. There are six judges chambers above the courtroom level, one visiting judges chamber and two separate judicial library spaces. 

Jury’s Statement


Type of facility: Courthouse
Type of construction: New
Site area: 4.2 acres
Area of building: 263,171 GSF
Capacity: 6 courts
Construction cost: $80 million
Status of project: Completed 2006


Owner: U.S. General Services
Administration, Auburn, Wash.
Architect: DLR Group, Portland, Ore.

This project breaks ground in the typology of courts planning. The building is formed of three pairs of juxtaposed courtrooms linked by ribbons of circulation that echo the adjacent freeway context.

It is an exhilarating piece of sculpture resulting in unexpected encounters with evocative free-flowing spaces of abundant daylight. The sculpted forms carry into the courtrooms using a teardrop shape to focus on the judge’s bench and embrace the room’s occupants with the richness of elegant wood patterning.


Select JFR Published Projects

• Fredrick County Work Release Center Fredrick, Md.; PSA-Dewberry

• Circuit Court of Cook County
Chicago; Booth Hansen

• El Paso County Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex Addition
Colorado Springs, Colo., DLR Group

• The New Fall River Trial Court
Fall River, Mass; Finegold Alexan der + Associates Inc.

• Haywood County Justice Center
Waynesville, N.C.; Heery-HLM Design

• Kent County Courthouse
West Warwick, R.I.; HOK

• Bell County District Courthouse
Belton, Texas; Wiginton Hooker Jeffry PC Architects

• Gwinnett County Detention Center Renovation and Expansion
Lawrenceville, Ga.; HOK

• Solano County Juvenile Detention Facility Fairfield, Calif. ; KMD Justice

• San Mateo County Girls Camp
San Mateo, Calif. ; KMD Justice

• San Mateo County Youth Center
San Mateo, Calif. ; KMD Justice


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