Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

United States Courthouse, Islip

Islip, New York

1993 - 2000

Located in Central Islip, Long Island, north of the Southern State Parkway and adjacent to the existing county courthouse, this federal courthouse takes advantage of panoramic views over both the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The 12-story building is placed on a podium to gain an extra presence on an otherwise flat and undifferentiated suburban site.

Visitors ascend two wide tiers of steps and enter the building through a monumental 9-story, top-lit rotunda in the form of an opaque cone clad in white metal panels. The rest of the south elevation consists of a gently inflected curtain wall that allows light into the corridors and permits uninterrupted views of the ocean. A granite-clad, east-west wall separates public circulation from the courtrooms and judges’ chambers. The north fa├žade is faced with metal panels and pierced by horizontal windows.

The west wing of the building houses four district courts per floor, while two bankruptcy courts are located on each floor of the east wing. Both wings connect to a central, top-lit, 12-story atrium with public foyer spaces at each courtroom level that link with the adjacent cone. In response to functional and security requirements, distinct circulation zones for the public, judicial staff, and detainees were provided by careful sequencing of layered public areas, courtrooms, and judges’ chambers.

This building reinterprets the courthouse as a new type of civic institution, receptive to public events as well as to the formalities of the judicial process. The rational, grid plan allows for a certain amount of modification and provides for internal expansion of court facilities over a 30-year period. The terraced forecourt, articulated by a modulated surface and rectilinear plantings of trees, provides an appropriate setting for a building of such civic stature.

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