Will County Courthouse Wins AIA Award for Design

By Aziza Jackson

JOLIET, Ill. ­­— Chicago-based Wight & Company has earned a prestigious recognition from the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Academy of Architecture for Justice for their design of the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.

The design for the Will County Courthouse is one of 15 national recipients of the 2018 Justice Facilities Review (JFR) awards program, and one of only four to receive a citation, which is the highest honor. The annual JFR program recognizes “the best in justice facility design,” depicting “the latest trends in the design and construction of justice facilities in the United States.”

The winning projects will be published in AIA’s Justice Facility Review and will be honored at the AIA/AAJ Fall Conference in November. HOK is serving as consulting architect for courts design on the $215 million project. Gilbane Building Company is serving as construction manager.

This Will County Courthouse project is scheduled for completion in 2020 and will replace an aging courthouse in Joliet with a 369,000-square-foot building that includes a 10-story tower. According to AIA, the new facility accommodates 38 courtrooms serving criminal, civil, family, traffic, and special proceedings caseloads.

The 10-story tower is composed of four court floor plates complete with judges’ chambers and jury deliberation suites. Disabled accessibility is integrated into the circulation corridors adhering to universal design principles. Court agency space accommodating outpost offices for the state’s attorney, adult probation, law library, and sheriff are located in the four-story wing, positioned perpendicular to the tower mass. At ground level, the light-filled public lobby with direct access to jury assembly, traffic court and the circuit court clerk public service area is expressed as a temple to social equity and open access to justice.

“We are creating a contemporary and architecturally captivating building that will serve as a catalyst for Joliet’s downtown development, as well as a symbol of civic pride,” said Kevin Havens, executive vice president and director of design at Wight & Company.

JFR jurors noted that the design “contributes well to the future revitalization of the downtown district, setting up a good model for how to grow the downtown.” According to AIA, the new courthouse conveys the notion of “transparency in justice” through the generous use of glass in all public areas. Beginning with the entrance lobby and procession through all public interfacing destinations, access to daylight and respite areas were provided to mitigate the stressful nature of the justice experience. AIA says that the building massing and organization communicates programmatic clarity and differentiation of public, private, and secure program components. Green roofs and terraces, accessible for juror’s breaks, extend the ground level landscape theme into upper level public areas.

According to Havens, the new courthouse will “convey the notion of transparency in justice” through the generous use of glass in all public areas. A light-filled public lobby on the ground level will provide direct access to jury assembly, traffic court and the circuit court clerk public service area. Jurors cited the design as “a good model of a user-friendly courthouse experience.”

“Wight & Company brings a team of professionals who understand the needs of Will County,” said Jim Moustis, Will County Board Speaker. “They designed a courthouse that was within our budget, will be safe and efficient for our employees and residents, and is now an award-winning building that our taxpayers can be proud of for generations to come.”