My project seeks to engage with a new justice system of fairness and equality, and at the same time, propose a new social identity for a more accessible architecture of justice to the general public.
Melbourne’s court spaces seek change, standing witness to a new meaning to judicial spaces and the architecture of power. As today’s society has become more empowered and democratized, current spaces of judgment are guilty of no longer being relevant to today’s methods of judicial decision-making and surveillance.
The site on trial – Melbourne’s legal precinct – stands accused of being disconnected from the community and reflects the irrelevance of current judicial spaces in Melbourne.
Courts are architectural representations of places to judge crimes and it is also a place to provide chances for people to rehabilitate. The current court buildings were purposely built with large scales to show off their status and power – a practice of the past. These spaces do not encourage public spaces for gathering nor are they habitable for a community. Justice is for everyone, and therefore courts should be more approachable and relevant for people.
Collingwood justice center is the precedence. It is a court building that does not seek to emphasize the architectural representation of power. While I believe the building still does not open up enough for public access due to the judicial need, this precedent sets up the bones of my proposal.
The Internet is giving people more knowledge and transparency to the justice system. More knowledge demands transparency and equal rights amongst all people – a fundamental idea in democracy. There is therefore an increasing need for remote video trials due to the security reasons and location limits, and the soaring demands in comforts within the courthouse. The building will provide more digital remote spaces for the current existing courthouses (while there is none).
And it is the hope that one day the digital courts will take over the existing various courthouses.
There are two aspects to this project – a public friendly building and a civic building.
Domesticity is a method I am using as a fender to classical architecture. Classical architecture and its monumental elements are usually inserted in large scales to show power. I want to subvert this and manipulate the elements to be inserted in a proper scale As such, I used a suburban roof form as a reference to a welcoming public space, whilst from the ground level, the building is designed to highlight the grandiosity of the civic status of the building.
My chosen site sits with in the precinct facing the Children’s court and County court. It stays in tight relation with the other courts.
The design will aim to provide a public frontage for people nearby and draw contrast to the Children’s court – The architecture of the Children’s Court is one that is not welcoming for the public, with an imposing security machine straight at the entrance visually imposing anyone who passes by. The two high-rise residential building nearby also fails to provide any sort of public space, and its laneway access to Latrobe Street is blocked.
One of the intentions for the new design is to therefore seek a new way to re-stitch the urban fabric.
The entrance of the lt Lonsdale st is set back from the street front. People have to step down to enter the building, it is a sign to give back to the city and at the same time it is to draw the contrast to the big grand civic buildings. The ground elements are more subtle and fragmented. Wood structure frames and brickworks are greatly introduced to break down the solid image of the courthouse with the senses o familiarity and home environment. These frameworks greatly emphasize the activities – such as the market laneway on the side.
While on the La Trobe side of the building, it is more upfront. Lots of open and balconies spaces are highlighting the activities.
To create a sense of familiarity and welcoming, pitched roof shapes are introduced as can be seen in the section.
All the courtrooms are created in a domestic house size thus the general public will feel comfortable inside the courtrooms. Everything is in proper human scale, unlike current existing courthouses.
The notion of the domestic home is replicated in the planning of the building. The domestic reference is extended further through the use of ”front yards” and “back yards” functioning as a place for both public and private communication. Also, the traditional court corridors for the public will replace by courtyard type of spaces, while those judicial chambers will be less private and more transparent.
The significance of the circulation for various user groups will be defined because it is a courthouse. The judicial circulation (including the staff circulation), offender and defendant circulation, witness protection circulation, and general public daily access circulation are all clearly delineated.
People will only need to go through a simple screening process just like you pass through the train stop before you using those legal space. (It is called control 4 in my design). As I am designing a building that is more open for the public, People enjoy the journey of various activities before they encounter the legal related facilities and has access on all levels. I am also introducing a space that is like a hot spot and convenient shop, so people can freely travel around the building, and hop on those remote control service stations easily.
By introducing various programs into the building, it is a way to give the “frozen” space some life senses and based on the function of the case proceeding,
Traditionally, less accessible and important programs will be placed on higher levels, while more public programs are usually organized on the lower level. The Legal system however has its own hierarchy.
To undermine this power in the system, the more powerful organization will be placed lower and the public spaces will be place to reshuffle the courtrooms.
This becomes somewhat symbolic, the idea of the public over and equals to the state. This means the public functions will provide surveillance to the legal spaces.
This effectively breaks down the traditional sense of courthouses being separate and monolithic.
There’s also educational programs placed in the building to complement the children’s court across the street.
Therefore, dear ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here to demand a new definition of a specific public building and a new architectural identity of justice. My design is a new type of courthouse with fairness, equality, generosity, and optimism.