Justice Facilities Review

Each year, the American Institute of Architects Academy of Architecture for Justice publishes the Justice Facilities Review to showcase projects across the United States that integrate exemplary strategies in justice facility design and construction.

This year, the JFR jury selected 23 projects, including eight citation awards for architectural and design excellence.

Jurors identified several distinct trends among the 52 submissions reviewed. Sustainability has become a primary driver across many facility typologies, with stakeholders on many projects pushing beyond basic LEED standards.

“Even correctional facilities are now being designed to incorporate daylighting, resource conservation and quality-of-life agendas for their users,” says Nick Seierup, jury chair and director of design at Perkins + Will.

The group also highlighted the number of renovation and adaptive reuse projects among the submissions.

The JFR will be published in September and forms part of a traveling exhibit that will tour the country throughout the coming year. A selection of projects from the review are listed on the pages that follow.

Calgary Courts Centre, Alberta, Canada

Photo by Robert Lemermeyer Photography

Architect Statement: The Calgary Courts Centre provides 73 courtrooms and features two glass and concrete towers of 24 and 20 stories joined by a 26-story public atrium. A desire for openness and transparency underlies the design approach, while the complex achieves a high level of security in an unobtrusive manner that lets in natural light and ensures views to the surrounding city.

Driven by a design-build-finance-operate procurement process, the design of interior spaces allows for future flexibility. The largest courthouse in Canada, the facility incorporates a sophisticated electronic docketing and wired courtroom system. The building is in the review process for LEED Silver certification.

Jury Comment: This project turns an unusual programmatic challenge — the provincial and federal branches had to be housed in the same building but maintain their separate identities — on a tight urban site into a defining design solution that becomes a symbol of transparency and openness for the courthouse. A 26-story public atrium creates a dynamic, light-filled space that connects the two branches and provides those inside with a sense of orientation and access to natural light and views.

The planning of the building establishes relationships to an adjacent historic court of appeals and a new courthouse park currently under construction. The building’s orientation minimizes the impact of the western sun while allowing morning light to penetrate into the building. Information sharing and wayfinding for visitors are especially critical, given the building’s size. Digital monitors are cleverly utilized at the main lobby and repeated on court floors to clarify circulation and access.

Facility Type: Federal/Provincial Court
Area: 1.1 million square feet
Construction Cost: $280 million
Project Status: Completed 2008

Owner: Province of Alberta
Architect: Kasian Architecture, Calgary; NORR, Toronto
Builder: Cana Construction, Calgary


Prince William County Regional Adult Detention Center, Manassas, Va.

Photo by Lee. B. Ewing

Architect Statement: Community identity, adjacency to the existing judicial complex and a progressive management approach are among the most important influences that informed the design of this detention center.

We began with a comprehensive master plan that recognized the historic assets. Two adjacent turn-of-the-century buildings gave inspiration for a new judicial green planned to replace surface parking and low-scale buildings. The exterior design of the detention center expansion reflects the historic context and city character. Through the addition of a proposed connecting colonnade and new court entry pavilion, the existing courthouse will serve well as a background building.

Jury Comment: The jail addition and renovation is a fine example of visually rich brick detailing, which solved the conflicting identity and image of the existing modern detention facility and adjacent 1970s-era courthouse. Coupled with a well-laid-out and functional detention center, use of video visitation and modern jail planning principles, the project is representative of excellence in design and construction. It is an example of how detention centers can display good architecture and positively contribute to the community’s self-image.

Facility Type: Detention
Area: 148,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $53 million
Project Status: Completed 2008

Owner: Prince William County, Va.
Architect: HOK, Washington
Builder: Manhattan Construction Company, Arlington, Va.

Metropolitan Courthouse, Nashville, Tenn.

Photo by Bob Schatz

Architect Statement: The primary challenge in renovating the circa-1937 metropolitan courthouse was designing a solution that met the courts’ programmatic and security needs and modern life-safety code requirements while maintaining and harmonizing with the building’s impressive historic fabric.

New stair and elevator cores were added at each end of the building to resolve secure vertical access and egress deficiencies. Modern courtroom technology and security systems were introduced without detracting from the historic context. A multilevel underground parking deck was added and covered with a new entry plaza, which provides direct secure access at the basement level and greatly enhances the civic presence of the building.

Jury Comment: What distinguishes this project is not only its careful restoration of a historic 1937 courthouse and its thorough modernization into a contemporary courthouse building but also the way it creates a major new public plaza that engages its surroundings and establishes a dramatic new setting for a building that is considered one of Nashville’s primary civic icons.

Early on, the courts recognized the limitations of the existing building to meet security criteria, and they willingly reprogrammed the building to a civil court to allow its adaptation and reuse. Former jail areas within the building are reclaimed as administrative office areas. Security, life safety, accessibility and technology are all updated to current standards and allow for future flexibility.

Facility Type: Metropolitan Court
Area: 232,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $35.7 million
Project Status: Completed 2007

Owner: City of Nashville and Davisdon County
Architect: Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon Inc.,
Nashville; PSA-Dewberry, Fairfax, Va.
Builder: Hardaway Construction Corp., Nashville

Union County Juvenile Detention Center, Linden, N.J.

Photo by Mikiko Kikuyama

Architect Statement: Designing a thin building — only one room deep — that wraps completely around a one-acre outdoor courtyard, we eliminated the security fencing by using the building perimeter as the secure enclosure required by good practice.

Ten-foot-wide corridors surround an acre of enclosed recreation space where ample daylight and excellent sightlines typify the surrounding interior. Raked roofs above the dayrooms open to the south to allow daylighting, and creative use of glass brick provides secure enclosure while allowing daylight to enter housing units. Small recreation yards adjacent to each dayroom allow daylight to penetrate to the floor. Its architectural expression creates a modern aesthetic of discipline closely aligned with classical design principles — firmness, commodity and delight.

Jury Comment: This project is a fine example of collaboration between good planning and architectural expression. Operational considerations drive the planning of program spaces to create a secure perimeter and enclose an interior courtyard. This consistent design theme defines the building complex as an exemplary environment for living, learning and rehabilitation and pushes the envelope for strategies to include transparency and natural light appropriate to a secure facility. The volumes created to bring in natural light are animated with a warm glow at night, presenting a positive image of a safe environment to the residents.

Facility Type: Juvenile Detention
Area: 72,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $27 million
Project Status: Completed 2008

Owner: Union County Improvement Authority
Architect: Ricci Greene Associates, New York
Builder: Chanree Construction Co., Ortley Beach, N.J.

Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse, Miami

Rendering by Lifang

Architect Statement: The courthouse is to be a signature building within the framework of downtown Miami, conceived as a facility especially designed as a judicial environment for children.

From early programming decisions to the choice of building materials, the process reflected the importance of value-driven justice and care. The design solution gives considerable attention to sustaining the multicultural values surrounding children in the justice system and to the design of an environment that is nonthreatening. Sustaining family values, if properly considered, impacts the size, type and configuration of spaces as well as scale and choice of materials.

Jury Comment: This project succeeds in creating a welcoming environment that addresses the special needs of a judicial environment for children. An innovative programming approach includes all the different support agencies within the building to provide more convenient access for families. The facility is located in downtown Miami on a brownfield site selected because of its adjacency to other court facilities and to mass transit.

The building frames a shaded public plaza that is visually connected to the lobby and the upper court floors. A south-facing exterior confetti wall not only shades the building, it also creates an iconic expression that reflects the variety of users inside. A lower lobby element has a green roof visible from the court floors. The building is on target for LEED Silver certification and incorporates numerous sustainable design initiatives, including a high-performance building skin.

Facility Type: Juvenile Court
Area: 371,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $134 million
Project Status: Estimated Completion 2012

Owner: Miami-Dade County
Architect: HOK, Miami; Perez & Perez, Miami
Builder: N/A

Denver Detention Center, Denver, Colo.

Rendering by Rahul Spall

Architect Statement: Located in Denver’s downtown civic center, the new detention center and justice center plaza form a link between the emerging mixed-use neighborhood and the central business district.

The abstracted classical organization of base, middle and top relates to the original civic center buildings while transitioning to the more contemporary new courthouse across the new justice center plaza. Outdoor recreation yards are inner courts, facing away from the street, that enhance privacy and bring daylight to the interior while creating a solid, modern exterior appearance. The main façade — featuring textured Indiana limestone — steps down to an open colonnade, establishing a pedestrian scale along the outdoor public space.

The detention center hosts a range of direct-supervision housing types, including open dormitories, eight-bed dorms, and high-security single-cell units. The result is a simple, concise plan that houses central booking for the city and county of Denver, two arraignment courtrooms, a medical suite, laundry, food services and staff services.

Jury Comment: No jury statement available.

Facility Type: County Jail
Area: 438,400 square feet
Construction Cost: $157 million
Project Status: Est. completion 2010

Owner: Denver Sheriff’s Department
Architect: OZ Architecture; Hartman-Cox; Ricci Greene Assoc.
Construction Manager: Hensel Phelps Construction Co.

McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center, Fairfax, Va.

Lee B. Ewing

Architect Statement: The architecture of the center responds to issues of human accommodation, facility security, information technology and environmental sustainability, and provides a tranquil working environment through the introduction of glare-free natural light and exterior views from deep within the structure.

Security and system resilience are key factors considered in the robustness of the building structure and skin, and the provision of redundant mechanical and electrical systems. Digital connectivity is complemented architecturally with a consideration of individual biometrics.

Jury Comment: This project innovatively uses the site to establish its identity and to achieve security and extreme weather protection. What could easily have been a bunker-like structure has been humanized by including the elements of transparency and natural light at the visitor entrance and at key interior spaces.

The thoughtfully planned space and generous volume of the center serve to relieve the pressure of these often intensely active areas. The integration of traffic monitoring with the communication center function provides flexibility and optimized functionality.

Facility Type: Law enforcement
Area: 146,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $58.5 million
Project Status: Completed 2008

Owner: Fairfax County, Va.
Architect: HOK, Washington
Builder: Manhattan Construction Company, Arlington, Va.

Deer Ridge Correctional Institution, Madras, Ore.

Photo by Nick Garibbo Photo Design

Architect Statement: Designed to LEED Silver standards, this 1,900-bed prison found design synergies between correctional features and sustainable features and embodies the state’s efforts to address its growing population of special-needs inmates. The design reflects a condensed-prison format in which housing units, dayrooms, programming space, and service, work and recreational space are situated to form and flow around a community mall-type footprint.

The community mall creates the feeling of a city-street environment to accustom inmates to life in society. Inmates circulate through different facilities to access numerous services and programs, including laundry, dining, treatment, education and work. A series of individual housing unit exercise yards are designed to increase the amount of time inmates can exercise outdoors.

Jury Comment: No jury statement available.

Facility Type: State Correctional Facility
Area: 600,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $190 million
Project Status: Completed 2008

Owner: Oregon Department of Corrections
Architect: DLR Group
Builder: Hoffman Construction; Kirby Nagelhout Construction

St. Cloud Police Headquarters, St. Cloud, Minn.

Photo by BKV Group

Architect Statement: The multi-story building incorporates a fully functioning police headquarters combining administration, investigations, patrol, training, community meeting space, evidence and forensics labs and underground parking.

The design embraces the challenges of the constricted site, stacking the program vertically and placing the parking underground. The subterranean parking allows a significant urban plaza. Brick is used extensively as an exterior material. The continuous linear clerestory links the internal spaces with light and also serves as a reassuring 24-hour lantern of police presence in the community.

Jury Comment: A powerful new image of law enforcement in the community is delivered here with the creation of an urban plaza backed with a visually striking composition of three types of masses. The overall effect exuberantly balances the conflicting demands for openness and security in the essence of the building typology.

A solidly developed and workable plan articulates a publicly accessible entry off the corner plaza, with a series of rooms lining one of the public street-side elevations. Expressive light monitors on the roof bring abundant natural daylight to the interior spaces below. Detailing of the common, traditional materials (wood soffits, custom brickwork) is handled with a clean and minimalist authority, reinforcing the crisp lines of the architecture. Daylight harvesting, displacement ventilation systems and expedient patrol traffic are all features that creatively deal with program concerns.

Facility Type: Law Enforcement
Area: 200,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $25 million
Project Status: Est. completion 2009

Owner: St. Cloud, Minn.
Architect: BKV Group, Minneapolis;
GLT Architects, St. Cloud, Minn.
Construction Manager: RA Morton, St. Cloud

The Jury


Nick Seierup, FAIA, Perkins + Will, Los Angeles

Richard Stalder, secretary of Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections
Gregg Williams, AECOM Design, Phoenix


Jeanne Chen, AIA, Moore Ruble Yudell,
Santa Monica, Calif.
Virlynn Tinnell, clerk of Mohave County Superior Court, Kingman, Ariz.



Law Enforcement
Chief James Bradley, White Plains Police Department, White Plains, N.Y.
Dean Roberts, AIA, McLaren Wilson Lawrie Architects, Wheaton, Ill.


2009 AAJ Advisory Group
Laurence Hartman, AIA, chair
Charles Drulis, AIA, past chair
Enrique Macia, AIA
Herbert Roth, FAIA





• Calgary Courts Centre, Alberta; Canada Kasian Architecture Interior Design & Planning Ltd.
• Canadian Plaza at the Peace Bridge, Fort Erie, N.Y.; NORR Ltd.
• McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Opera tions Center, Fairfax, Va.; HOK
• Metropolitan Courthouse Renovation, Nashville, Tenn.; Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon Inc.
• Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse, Miami; HOK
• Prince William Regional ADC Expansion, Manassas, Va.; HOK
• St. Cloud Police Headquarters, St. Cloud, Minn.; BKV Group
• Union County Juvenile Detention Center, Linden, N.J.; Ricci Greene Associates




• BRAC Joint Regional Correctional Facility; Chesapeake, Va.
• Deer Ridge Correctional Institution; Madras, Ore.
• Denver Detention Center; Denver
• Rhode Island Youth Development and Assessment Facilities; Cranston, R.I.
• Wake County Detention Center; Raleigh, N.C.




• Colfax County Judicial Center; Raton, N.M.
• East Contra Costa County Courthouse; Pittsburg, Calif.
• Fairfax County Courthouse Expansion; Fairfax, Va.
• James A. Walsh U.S. Courthouse; Tucson, Ariz.
• New York County Family Court Building Renovation, New York
• Warren E. Burger Federal Building and United States Courthouse Renovation, St. Paul, Minn.


Law Enforcement


• Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, Bryan, Texas
• County of Santa Clara Crime Laboratory, San Jose, Calif.
• Metro Bomb Squad Facility, Los Angeles
• Spanish Fork Fourth District Court and City Police, Spanish Fork, Utah