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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
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).