County Unveils HOK Courthouse Design
(02/25/2010)

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — Bucks County will soon break ground on the largest construction project in county history — a new $100 million justice center.

The eight-story building, designed by international planning, design and delivery firm HOK, will feature 13 ADA-compliant courtrooms on three floors below a top floor containing judges chambers. The lower four floors of the 33,000-square-foot facility will house administrative offices and operational support space for the clerk of courts, the district attorney’s and public defender’s offices, the sheriff’s office and probation services.

Plans also include one floor of shell space, located between the top floor and the courtroom floors, which will allow future expansion of support space or the addition of six courtrooms.

The local judiciary has been pressing for new court facilities for more than a decade, with the existing courthouse struggling to accommodate growing caseload and service demands, officials say. The new facility will provide six courtrooms for jury trials, five courtrooms for non-jury trials and one courtroom for ceremonial proceedings.

The building’s exterior will combine natural stone at the base with brickwork on the lower floors. Upper floors will be finished with terra-cotta panels, and prominent brise-soleil on the seventh floor will overhang the façade, providing solar shade on two sides.

The lower floors of the building, which will straddle a hillside, are designed to form a brick podium that extends to, and complements, the existing façade of the historic armory building.

The design team integrated a two-story glazing component to create the public lobby and define the building’s entrance. Public corridors with seating areas will run along the large bay windows of the two angled wings, drawing in natural light and offering views over the public plaza.

A glass spire will extend above the semi-cylindrical, glazed lobby of the L-shaped structure in an architectural flourish that stretches beyond the rooftop.

The new justice center is designed with a single point of entry for visitors and separate circulation routes, including segregated elevators, for the public, inmates and judiciary and staff. Security screening functions will be confined to the front of the public corridor and elevators.

Inmates will enter the facility through a secure sally port, and a covered walkway will connect the justice center to a new $22 million, four-story parking structure.

The existing garage will be demolished to make way for the justice center. The county plans to convert the existing courts building to house a number of county government and administrative departments.

Construction on the justice center phase of the project, which is set to begin in the fall, is scheduled for completion by 2013.

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