Federal Courthouse, LA

Global architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is constructing a federal courthouse in LA, a triumph of glass design.

10-storeys high, encompassing 58,808m², the building comprises 24 courtrooms and 32 judicial chambers, housing the US District Court of the Central District of California. The urban courthouse is located on a sloping site in the Civic Centre neighbourhood of LA.

The most striking feature is the extensive use of glass. SOM wanted this for the exterior but had to overcome the factor of intense sun exposure. They also wanted to align the building with the urban grid, which is slightly unbalanced, making heat control more difficult.

A glazed curtain wall with vertical pleats was designed to meet these challenges. The folds reduce the amount of surface area that is exposed to the strongest, most direct sun rays. The glass panels also vary in opacity: opaque sections are used where the sun rays are most direct, while other sections are more transparent. These features will reduce solar radiation by almost half compared to a standard glass façade; they will maximise views too.

Part of the courthouse’s design is to appear floating over its stone base, which also makes the $319 million safe from earthquakes and bomb threats. Inside, a 10-storey atrium is crossed by bridges and surrounded by walkways with glass railings.

SOM said they wanted to create a building that is ‘both modern in spirit and rooted in classic principles of federal architecture.’

They continue: ‘It uses traditional architectural elements such as processional steps, grand public spaces, and enduring materials like limestone to achieve a strong civic identity.’

For more information on this ambitious glass cube, click here.

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