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DCD Magazine

DLR Group Delivers
Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse,
a New Paradigm in Courthouse Design

A new paradigm in courthouse design is being realized for the Wayne Lyman Morse U.S. Courthouse through the General Services Administration’s “Design Excellence Program,” which brings new focus to the design quality of federally-procured projects.

DLR Group, created a courthouse that bridged the chasm that is widely agreed to have developed over the past two centuries between “us” the citizens and “them” the government. By focusing on concepts of integrity, vitality, dignity and substance, the building was infused with imagery that beckons all citizens to reclaim their proprietary relationship to our system of justice.

The courtrooms of the Eugene, Oregon Federal Courthouse were articulated objects while also resolving all the given requirements for security, adjacencies and circulation. Instead of stacking all the spaces up and around the courtrooms, the courthouse raises the courtrooms and slips other programs into a two-story plinth. While the base is monolithic, the courtrooms are expressive entities, formally articulated and legible to the public and beyond.

The Wayne Lyman Morse U.S. Courthouse, located in Eugene, Oregon, completed in August 2006 cost approximately $285 per square foot (escalated to February 2009, $376.50) to construct.

The building is composed in two distinct strata — the honorific and the quotidian. This difference is expressed in the actual form of the building by placing all support spaces within a glass plinth and elevating the courtrooms as solid objects above this transparent base. The shape of these objects emanate from the courtrooms themselves, and are enveloped by ribbons of steel that also function as connective elements articulating from movement sequence between the three courtroom pods floating above the plinth. The formal and structural organization of the plinth follows a Cartesian order upon which the city of Eugene developed. In this sense, the plinth is a swath of the existing urban fabric upon which the more organic and free shapes of the courtrooms rest. The entry into the building occurs at the exact moment where both of these systems collide, thus, creating a large open atrium space framed by the strict grid defining the base and sculpted by the fluid forms radiating above.

This courthouse serves the District of Oregon as part of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. The four-acre site is the previous home of the Agripac cannery plant and is regarded by the city as an impetus for redeveloping the surrounding area with civic and commercial development. Rising 22 meters high, the courthouse has five stories above grade and one level of below-grade parking. The first two floors hold offices for the courts, the U.S. Attorney, probation and pretrial services, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. General Services Administration, two U.S. senators, and one member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The building’s six courtrooms, all on the third floor, are paired by their purpose — two district, two magistrate, and two bankruptcy courtrooms. Above the courtroom level, there are six judges’ chambers, one visiting judges’ chamber, and two separate judicial library spaces.

Completed in August 2006, the Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse achieved a LEED® Gold rating.

The Courthouse includes 5 floors, six courtrooms, and associated chambers and ancillary spaces. The Architect of Record was DLR Group, Portland, Oregon (www.dlrgroup.com) and the Design Architect was Morphosis, Santa Monica, California (www.morphosis.net). 

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