Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse



Repositioning Proceedings of Business as Usual

Today, the architecture of justice drifts away from symbolic iconography; courtrooms are routinely located in generic office towers indifferent to the gravity of the judicial process. The Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse challenges this trend, expressing courtrooms as discrete objects steadfast against a dynamic field of forces, recalling the historic single-room courthouse in which the court’s raison d’être was made palpable by the architecture. The Morse Courthouse expresses the stature and sobriety of the traditional courthouse in a contemporary language that makes it relevant to the present. In the form and space of the building, the legibility of the distance between the new and its historic origin physically manifests the spectrum between strict and loose interpretation, a conceptual strategy that reinforces both the necessity of persistence and the openness and freedom afforded to law and architecture by interpretation.

Posted: Feb 22nd, 2009 / Last Edited: Jun 1st, 2010 Print

Description

  • American courthouse architecture has moved away from the use of symbolic iconography to communicate the importance of the judicial process. Courtrooms are now routinely located in generic office towers — effectively repositioning the proceedings as business as usual — thus obscuring the gravity of the judicial process by excising the symbolism inherent in the traditional courtroom. The Eugene Federal Courthouse seeks to challenge this trend by expressing the courtrooms as discrete object buildings — a reference back to an earlier single room courthouse model. The building is composed of two distinct strata, the honorific and the quotidian. The iconic elements are the courtrooms themselves, located in articulated pavilions that float above an orthogonal two-story plinth that houses office and administrative spaces. Their forms refer to the fluid nature of the American Judicial System — a system that is designed to remain flexible by being continuously challenged and reinterpreted by the proceedings of the courts. The formal and structural organization of the plinth is mimetic of the Cartesian layout of the city, and thus represents the more static nature of Eugene’s urban fabric upon which the organic and independent shapes of the courthouses rest.

    Ribbons of steel envelop the pavilions, articulating the movement sequence between the three courtroom clusters. The waiting areas and public corridors that connect the courtroom pavilions provide views to the surrounding mountains and a perception of light and the passage of time. The entry occurs at the moment where the two systems collide, in a large open atrium, framed by the base’s strict grid and sculpted by the fluid forms above.

    The shapes of the pavilions emanate from the autonomous courtrooms themselves, whose soft forms are constricted to direct the focus to the witness stand and judge's bench. The jury boxes are partially recessed, isolated in an articulated space that refers to the juror’s role as both observer and participant. In the courtrooms, natural light is admitted through two thick-walled, large apertures above the judge’s bench. The effect is that of a freestanding building, a unique and dignified place in which the court’s raison d’être is architecturally legible.


  • American courthouse architecture has moved away from the use of symbolic iconography to communicate the importance of the judicial process. Courtrooms are now routinely located in generic office towers — effectively repositioning the proceedings as business as usual — thus obscuring the gravity of the judicial process by excising the symbolism inherent in the traditional courtroom. The Eugene Federal Courthouse seeks to challenge this trend by expressing the courtrooms as discrete object buildings — a reference back to an earlier single room courthouse model. The building is composed of two distinct strata, the honorific and the quotidian. The iconic elements are the courtrooms themselves, located in articulated pavilions that float above an orthogonal two-story plinth that houses office and administrative spaces. Their forms refer to the fluid nature of the American Judicial System — a system that is designed to remain flexible by being continuously challenged and reinterpreted by the proceedings of the courts. The formal and structural organization of the plinth is mimetic of the Cartesian layout of the city, and thus represents the more static nature of Eugene’s urban fabric upon which the organic and independent shapes of the courthouses rest.

    Ribbons of steel envelop the pavilions, articulating the movement sequence between the three courtroom clusters. The waiting areas and public corridors that connect the courtroom pavilions provide views to the surrounding mountains and a perception of light and the passage of time. The entry occurs at the moment where the two systems collide, in a large open atrium, framed by the base’s strict grid and sculpted by the fluid forms above.

    The shapes of the pavilions emanate from the autonomous courtrooms themselves, whose soft forms are constricted to direct the focus to the witness stand and judge's bench. The jury boxes are partially recessed, isolated in an articulated space that refers to the juror’s role as both observer and participant. In the courtrooms, natural light is admitted through two thick-walled, large apertures above the judge’s bench. The effect is that of a freestanding building, a unique and dignified place in which the court’s raison d’être is architecturally legible.


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Sustainability

  • Sustainable Design Intent & Innovation
    The Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse demanded the reconciliation of two seemingly discordant needs: security and sustainability. A Security Level IV facility - one level below buildings such as the Pentagon - comprises a high volume of public contact with agencies including high-risk law enforcement and intelligence agencies, courts, judicial offices, and highly sensitive government records. This facility entails stringent and complex security requirements, including perimeter-parking restrictions, vehicle barriers, and building setback requirements (against vehicle bombing); blast mitigation; defense against ballistic, biological and chemical attacks, and more. The owner also sought sustainability equivalent to LEED Silver, which posed a unique challenge to the design team: create a building that unites the implied densities of security (thickness, rigidity, separation) with essential values of sustainability (transparency, airiness, sensitivity, connectivity). The team engaged in a concerted effort toward this reconciliation, delivering a building that garnered LEED Gold certification.The design implements innovative strategies to provide building security within a living, breathing, organic design vernacular wrapped around real world sustainable features: a dramatic, ecologically-sensitive transformation of the site; extensive glazing for natural light and connectivity; energy and water-saving systems and fixtures; and an architectural expression of judicial presence at a healthy, human scale.


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  • Sustainable Design Intent & Innovation
    The Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse demanded the reconciliation of two seemingly discordant needs: security and sustainability. A Security Level IV facility - one level below buildings such as the Pentagon - comprises a high volume of public contact with agencies including high-risk law enforcement and intelligence agencies, courts, judicial offices, and highly sensitive government records. This facility entails stringent and complex security requirements, including perimeter-parking restrictions, vehicle barriers, and building setback requirements (against vehicle bombing); blast mitigation; defense against ballistic, biological and chemical attacks, and more. The owner also sought sustainability equivalent to LEED Silver, which posed a unique challenge to the design team: create a building that unites the implied densities of security (thickness, rigidity, separation) with essential values of sustainability (transparency, airiness, sensitivity, connectivity). The team engaged in a concerted effort toward this reconciliation, delivering a building that garnered LEED Gold certification.The design implements innovative strategies to provide building security within a living, breathing, organic design vernacular wrapped around real world sustainable features: a dramatic, ecologically-sensitive transformation of the site; extensive glazing for natural light and connectivity; energy and water-saving systems and fixtures; and an architectural expression of judicial presence at a healthy, human scale.

    Regional/Community Design & Connectivity
    Set on a previously developed site along the edge of central Eugene, the courthouse occupies part of a small district of warehouses that the City plans to replace with a mix of new commercial uses. Within this evolving urban fabric, the courthouse serves as a new civic nucleus and model for conscientious development. The site’s location within a half mile of more than 18 basic services and three high-density residential neighborhoods fosters reductions in transportation and associated impacts. Existing nearby public rail and bus lines connect the courthouse to the greater community. To further encourage public transportation, the project team worked with Lane Transit District representatives to create new public transit stops specifically serving the courthouse. Additionally, the GSA provides preferred parking to employees and tenants using low emitting / fuel-efficient vehicles. The design articulates the building / site perimeter to meet stringent security needs, but makes that security transparent to create an inviting approach for users and visitors. Security barriers are practically invisible, taking the form of a series of cubic retaining walls holding turf grass. As visitors approach the main entrance from the south, periodic wall openings admit pedestrians to an internal public plaza at ground level.

    Main entrance is easily visible and accessible from road with highly effective security berms visible along bottom


    Land Use & Site Ecology
    The site previously housed a large industrial food processing plant. The abandoned, metal-roofed structures and surrounding sea of asphalt created dramatic heat islands, and resulted in large volumes of storm water sheet draining to the surrounding right of way for dispersal. The courthouse design incorporates several measures to reverse this negative impact to the local ecology. In lieu of large expanses of parking, the new courthouse incorporates 80 underground parking stalls. The landscaping plan restores approximately 37% of the site to natural percolation rates and connects the courthouse to the ecologies of the Millrace open space to the east and the Willamette River and Alton Baker Park to the north. Security barrier planters and a landscape extension on the east use hardy, self-sustaining native and adaptive plant species to avoid irrigation and the use of pesticides, while a “forest” of incense cedar, quaking aspen and European beech populate the area between the courthouse and Mill Street. In all but one case, plant zones are interconnected to allow plants, helpful insects and water to interact naturally.

    Young "forest" visible on left


    Bioclimatic Design
    Eugene’s mean annual temperature is 11.1 degrees Celsius with annual rainfall of 129.3 centimeters. Cool temperatures and high precipitation warranted a responsive restoration of natural site permeation through native plantings and reconnection to the local ecology. These plantings further provide natural windbreaks against prevailing winds on the west, sound dampening and exhaust mitigation from adjacent traffic, and sun shading. The design responds to the challenge of connecting building interiors to the bioclimatic surroundings without compromising the courthouse’s high security needs. Public areas, corridors, and administrative office areas use extensive glazing to bring natural light into the interior and provide visual connection to the city, river and mountains. Furthermore, this courthouse is unique in drawing natural light into the courtrooms themselves. Typical courtroom design surrounds courtrooms with judges’ chambers and jury rooms as an easy way to create isolation for security and make use of the higher ceilings required by court proceedings - in effect, land locking courtrooms. By locating jury rooms and judges’ chambers on the floors above, the design allows for the placement of clerestory windows along the courtroom outer walls as well as feature windows at the judge’s bench to bring in natural light.

    Innovative daylit courtroom interiors


    Light & Air
    Through a combination of extensive daylighting, dimmable lighting and innovative HVAC systems, the design responds to the building architecture with sensitivity while creating bright, airy, healthy and comfortable spaces. An underfloor air distribution system serves a majority of spaces, including the six courtrooms. The system consists of a raised floor on pedestals with air supplied through the underfloor plenum, and with individual user control provided through strategically located floor diffusers. This system provides more efficient air-conditioning, uses less fan power, and provides better air quality than a traditional overhead ductwork system. In response to high ceilings and extensive glazing in the atrium, jury assembly area, and third floor public corridors, the courthouse utilizes radiant floors for efficient heating and cooling. Hot or cool water piped through PEX tubes encased in a concrete floor slab modulates space temperatures, using less energy than standard HVAC systems while providing superior comfort for tall spaces with extensive glass. A supplemental air system provides ventilation air and a portion of the cooling capacity for public spaces. Air is delivered through wall stud cavities to hidden grilles at the bottom of the walls, supplying air at low levels and low velocities.

    Water Cycle
    The courthouse design dramatically improves the site’s water cycle. The demolition of the former sea of hardscape and subsequent redevelopment of the site to serve the courthouse goals reclaims the site to its natural pervious levels. Pervious ground covering and planting beds now cover 37% of the site, allowing for on-site infiltration of storm water. The use of native and drought-tolerant plants, such as quaking aspens, Saskatoon serviceberry and incense cedar in on-site planting beds takes advantage of natural precipitation and reduces the Total Potable Water Applied (TPWA) by approximately 59% over baseline analysis. While not included in TPWA calculations, water use is further reduced through the inclusion of automatic rain shutoffs and moisture sensors in the irrigation system to prevent wasteful irrigation cycles. Additionally, the hardy native / adaptive plant species allow for the restriction of insect and disease-controlling chemicals in landscape maintenance, which (amongst other environmental benefits) precludes groundwater contamination. The building system minimizes potable water use and associated sanitary waste with water-saving fixtures including waterless urinals, and ultra-low flow lavatories, sinks and showers. Combined with fixture sensors at public locations, these measures result in savings of more than 40% over baseline case analysis.

    Energy Flows & Energy Future
    Numerous measures were incorporated to minimize the overall energy use of the courthouse, ultimately resulting in estimated energy savings of 38.39% compared to a baseline model. Incorporated measures include daylighting to reduce dependence on artificial lighting with its resultant energy consumption and heat load, energy load reduction analyses made possible by designing for aggregate load averages and peaks rather than equipment maximum load ratings, adding fluorescent fixtures with dimmable ballasts controlled by daylight sensors, and incorporating extensive use of occupancy sensor controlled lighting in unoccupied spaces. Numerous efficiencies were realized mechanically as well, including purging 100% of the outside air at nighttime to cool the building by removing the heat build-up of the day; integrating the “right-sized” mechanical equipment associated with a displacement ventilation delivery system; employing the extensive use of variable speed motors; designing for efficient operation at average, not peak, loading; minimum losses due to drive and winding by the incorporation of high performance, premium efficiency motors; and using high performance glazing to minimize radiant heat loss.

    Daylit interior spaces


    Materials & Construction
    Extensive use of construction materials derived from recycled content became a major contributing factor to the overall sustainability of the final built form. The use of recycled steel and aluminum components, including rebar, structural steel, steel deck, cold metal framing, metal stairs, formed metal fabrications, stainless steel detention equipment and furniture, aluminum entrances and storefronts, and factory formed metal wall panels (exterior skin), encompassed material costs exceeding 20% of the overall project expense. The indoor air quality of the Morse Courthouse is improved by the careful selection of low VOC building materials. The design team sought products meeting the standards of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Rules, Green-Seal and Green Label guidelines. To support these decisions, the majority of the flooring in the courthouse is exposed concrete, a durable material that does not negatively impact indoor air quality. To further support the indoor air quality efforts, and to reduce exposure of building occupants to potentially hazardous chemical contaminants that adversely impact air quality, occupant well being, and the environment, the Owner has enacted a comprehensive green cleaning/housekeeping program.

    Long Life, Loose Fit
    The most fundamentally effective way to mitigate the negative effects associated with materials and construction is to appropriately size the overall built form through careful planning and design. By combining programmatic spaces for joint use, the design minimizes individual rooms that would otherwise not be used often. Additional efficiencies were gained by minimizing the amount of program at the courtroom level. ADR suites and telephone / data rooms are placed over the courtroom sallyport area, utilizing otherwise wasted volume mandated by the courtrooms. Following multiple revisions during the design phase, the final iteration of the space program yielded efficiency ratings of 82% for the overall design, an extremely high rating for this project type. Additionally, three-dimensional coordination drawings of the various plenum spaces were generated, unveiling the fact that our plenums were oversized, and could be reduced without compromising overall clear ceiling heights. This discovery allowed two of the floors to be reduced in height by 300mm each. By installing electrical and data conduits under the raised access floor, ease of wire management was achieved, extending the life of the building and maximizing the flexibility of the spaces for future configurations without the normal costs associated with rewiring.

    Energy Savings
    Measurement and verification of energy efficiency is a continual process. It starts in design, where submeters are specified for specific equipment types. An M&V plan was created describing a methodology on how utility use will be monitored and evaluated. For this project, a whole building approach (IPMVP Option D) was selected to monitor the performance of the design building with respect to the baseline developed during modeling. 15-minute electric interval data is collected and made available via the web from the local utility. A sampling of lighting circuits are submetered to analyze lighting usage. Trending of HVAC equipment was also included. The results of annual performance measurements will be compiled into a report and analysis performed to ascertain actual performance. Energy Star benchmarking will be performed at the one-year mark. An annual occupant survey is a standard part of the building management protocol and is tailored to gather additional information.


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Details

Location:
405 East 8th Avenue, Eugene, Oregon, United States of America
Client:
GSA Northwest Region 10
Size:
270,000 gross sq ft / 25,083 gross sq m
Program:
Six federal courtrooms with judge's chambers, support offices, lobby, jury assembly areas and cafeteria
Design:
1999 - 2004
Construction:
2004 - 2006
Type:
  • Governmental

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