Bordeaux Law Courts
This is one of the practice's most significant projects of recent years and marks a distinct phase in the design philosophy of the practice. While respecting the historic setting and recognising the civic significance of the new building, the design is essentially a simple box that clearly reveals its function and organisation. The brief required complete separation of public and judicial circulation patterns: identifying the building's constituent parts resulted in a transparency that encourages a sense of accessibility and orientation.
Key elements of the design are the creation of public space and integration with the existing urban landscape. Public entry is facilitated via a flight of stairs placed to the side, while the great Salle des Pas Perdus is the core of the building, where lawyers, their clients and the public meet. The seven courtroom 'pods', are clad in cedar wood, raised on pilotis within a great glass wall under an undulating copper roof.
Emphasis has been placed on passive environmental control systems: the 'flask'-like volumes of the courtrooms allow daylight deep into the internal spaces and, through their height, ensure temperature control through stratification. The great glazed box wrapping around the chambers, with its sun-screening and ventilation systems incorporated within the roof, functions as a 'breathing' container. In addition, the podium and offices are built in heavyweight concrete construction - resulting in an effective passive heat control system.
The site is located in the heart of the historic core of Bordeaux, near the medieval cathedral and forming a backdrop to the imposing Neo-Classical Palais de Justice facing the Place de la République. The forms of the courtrooms echo the mass of the adjoining medieval towers.
Through the legible articulation of each of the architectural components, the main elements of the brief, including the circulation, are expressed. Each group of users have dedicated circulation routes throughout the building to maintain the required level of separation and security.
The large stone-paved public square in front of the building, with views of the medieval cathedral includes an avenue of lime trees and benches. It is designed to be accessible to all and yet ensures that the building maintains the required level of security at all times with an open and inviting wall, ensuring clear navigation.
A concern for energy-efficient design informed all of the key decisions for the project, including the striking form of the naturally ventilated and day-lit courtrooms.
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