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Courthouse, Savanna-la-mar

Part 1 Project 2003
Ayesha Haughton
Mark Walker
University of Technology Kingston Jamaica, West Indies
Courthouses are important spaces that should evoke a sense of ORDER, RULES, LAW and EXAMPLE. Five elements were chosen to be the focus of the design, as they would instill the above effects as one passes through and about the spaces designed. The five elements were APPROACH, IMPACT, ENTRY, DISCOVERY, and MEMORY. Memory was treated as the most important element, and was reinforced with each change in location throughout the spaces.
The aim of the project was to have the subject inhabiting the space, remember their ‘place’ in the institution of law. To do this a number of exaggerated details were included in the design. One such detail is the entry to the lobby of the structure. After passing through the dominant entranceway, one is driven inside to experience an even more dominant double-height hall.
The first floor courtrooms are designed to extend beyond the plane of the courtrooms below becoming the dominant figure in the design. The north façade, which is also the entry façade, is made transparent using a curtain wall system, giving the onlooker at ground level a direct view of the extruded courtrooms. The onlooker is able to look in at justice as it keeps a watchful eye on the town of Savanna-la-mar.
Memory is revealed by the implied rotation of the existing courthouse to sit diagonally instead of vertically on its axis as the original building had done. The new design becomes a ‘memory’ of the old building as its essence is frozen in time. By rotating the axis, the focus of the proposed courthouse includes the plaza as well as the wider community, and not just the street running perpendicular to it. The datum is no longer a singular entity but rather the whole community. The design is divided into a functional spatial plan, each geometric shape in the design having its own distinct function of administration, private court matters or public court proceedings.

Ayesha Haughton
Mark Walker

The studio focused primarily on the creation of a cohesive centre to Savanna-la-mar, a small town in rural Jamaica. A public plaza was used to create this "centre". This plaza was subsequently bound by the civic programmes of Library, Courthouse, Theatre and Community Centre.

This courthouse project developed around the idea of a ceremonial progression from the plaza to the courthouse to the courtrooms inside, and a blurring of the edge between the public and civic spaces, bringing the courthouse into the public realm. The strategy of making the courtrooms independent volumes within the envelope of the building, and highly visible from the plaza, was successful in that it portrayed justice as a visibly attainable, tangible entity. A strong understanding of the existing social context ensured that the investigative process was continuous throughout with an alternating series of models and drawings. Overall, the scheme was successful as it was socially and contextually relevant, well presented, fairly simple, and reflected the goals established in the original idea.


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