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United States Courthouse

Thomas Phifer and Partners

United States Courthouse
By Caterina Testa -

The architecture of a public institution should, through form, volume and surfaces, speak to the values embedded in that institution. Values and significance change as society itself changes, and the buildings of yesteryear serve as a visible reminder of the way our societies have moved on.
The new Courthouse in Salt Late City by Thomas Phifer and Partners stands close to the historic Federal Courthouse on a raised landscaped square set back from the road and the rest of the city.
The open area between the old and new buildings serves both to separate and bring together the two public institutions, underlining how they belong to different eras with different attitudes. The elegant Neoclassical colonnade of the old courthouse expresses all the solidity and rigueur of its times. The uniformly transparent façades of new, iconic 10-storey building, while also transmitting a sense of stability and deeply rooted integrity, express the ideals of transparently egalitarian justice the American system upholds.
Glass and aluminium façades lay bare to the rest of the city what goes on within the walls of a Court of Justice, and vice versa. The city and its piercing light become an integral part of the interiors, symbols of an institution in constant close contact with its constituency.
The triple-height entrance on the southwest corner of the building facing the junction between two primary streets reinforces this message of openness.
Natural light here becomes a structural architectural component. On the façades, the quilt-work pattern created by vertical aluminium sunscreens tempers this transparency with a variable, protective veil that changes quietly with the solar orientation and interior use.
Inside, a sky-lit atrium courses up the full ten storeys bringing natural daylight right down to the ground floor. A sculptural glass art installation by artist James Carpenter will soon embellish the atrium, bringing further...

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