Located on Main Street in a historically sensitive town, the renovation and addition to f the 1930s Franklin County Courthouse adds significant new space and reconceives the historic structure to create a coherent new whole for the courts and the City of Greenfield’s future.
The design carefully restores the front of the original building for use by the clerk and probation departments, while the much larger addition houses a new entry, six courtrooms, a law library, detainee circulation, and a jury pool room. For safety and security, the separated prisoner, public, and judges’ circulation paths do not cross until they meet in the courtrooms.
Despite its size, this significant addition does not overwhelm the existing smaller scale building. The elements above the cornice of the historic structure are light and ephemeral, reflecting the sky and minimizing the effect of the mass. The glazed top floor sits above a three-story masonry block, made of the same limestone as the base of the original courthouse. The entry is relocated from Main Street to the side at the juncture of the old and new buildings. An extended roof canopy and glass wall frame the new entry and public zone of the courthouse. The visitor circulates through the visually interconnected public spaces, finally arriving at the courtrooms, which are serene and luminous spaces filled with natural light—a theater for the important functions of the judiciary.
The old structure and new addition function as one building, while the materials – red brick and dark wood in the renovation and light wood panels and stone in the addition clarify the difference between old and new. In the original building, modern courthouse functional requirements demanded a complete reconfiguration and renovation, with historic elements carefully preserved and the original sensibility maintained. Lighting fixtures, millwork, and building carvings were restored and relocated to significant points in the old building. The darker historic palette is appropriate in the old building with lower ceilings, more cellular spaces and smaller windows. This is appropriate for the gravitas of the probation department and clerical spaces. The floor levels in the original building could not support modern requirements of the Courtroom spaces and the mechanical spaces required for air distribution, so the seamless link between old and new required at some floors, gradual ramps for smooth transitions. In the new building, the abundance of indirect natural light and light wood veneers in the courtrooms, hearing rooms and gathering spaces for the public convey the image envisioned by the local judiciary.
The exterior has the same contrast between old and new. The old conveys the durability and timelessness of our common law and the new, with its curtain wall façade, the openness and accessibility of a democracy.
Leers Weinzapfel Associates is a practice recognized for its exceptional quality of design for the public realm in urban and campus contexts. The group’s special strength is a “mission impossible” ability to meet extraordinarily difficult building challenges with uncommon design clarity, elegance, and refinement. We are committed to providing meaningful spaces for human interaction and to promoting social well-being. Our work is diverse, including technically demanding infrastructure installations, advanced learning and living environments for educational institutions, to civic buildings and community recreation centers. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects honored us with the Firm Award, the highest distinction the AIA bestows on an architecture practice, the first and only woman-owned firm to be so honored. ARCHITECT Magazine has included the firm on its list of Top 50 architecture firms in the country, for the past five years in a row.