United States President John F. Kennedy famously said in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” More than 50 years later, President Kennedy’s challenge is one of even greater consequence now than it was before.
So how does the average citizen serve their country? Perhaps one of the most practical ways is through jury duty. Here in the US and in other Western nations, there are few actions more representative of democracy than jury duty and there are few buildings more representative of justice than a network of federal courthouses.
As architects, we believe design plays a critical role in supporting efficient, contemporary justice proceedings--including the facilitation of jury service. When done thoughtfully, courthouse design can help make justice transparent to the public, provide a unique human experience to its users and contribute to the vitality of a community.
Recently we were commissioned by the GSA to participate in the design competition for the new federal courthouse in Los Angeles, California. Our courthouse design is comprised of a base, grand portico and tower. The base captures the spirit of LA with vibrant indoor and outdoor spaces; the grand portico and trellis signals the presence of a civic landmark; and the 368 foot tower infuses daylight into the building with two courtrooms per floor.
While ultimately not the winning entry, the design has engendered public interest and contributed to courthouse design thinking. By combining symbolic and functional elements, the proposed courthouse is coherent, relevant and inspiring to jury members and other users. We invite you to watch the video above to learn more about the design.