Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

United States Courthouse, San Diego

San Diego, California

2003 - 2012

The master plan for the United States Courthouse in San Diego integrates important existing federal buildings, engaging new landscape elements, inviting pedestrian paths, and celebrated public art, in order to create a secure, technologically advanced facility, which promotes the city’s enlightened civic design goals for a vibrant and accessible downtown.

The building’s architectural massing combines a slender sixteen-story tower that rises above a transparent and translucent building base. Clad in wafer-like layers of terracotta and glass, the tower is composed in direct response to the building’s complex program, urban context and site orientation. The ultrathin massing supports LEED Gold sustainable design strategies.

In juxtaposition to the rectilinear tower, the building’s curved, light-filled lobby is shaped and positioned slightly removed from the tower footprint to meet security goals and to be visible from all approaches to the site. The space serves to efficiently receive and redirect staff and visitors to all interior destinations. The jury assembly space and outdoor terrace, located adjacent to the lobby, provide views to the plaza and gardens. The naturally ventilated lobby and jury assembly room are designed to take full advantage of the idyllic San Diego climate.

The tower’s glazed east elevation, designed for public circulation, offers exceptional exterior views to the plaza, city, and expansive South Bay. The two-courts-per-floor design eliminates traditional long corridors and gives human scale to the procession from entry to courtroom. This activity is visible from the public plaza and, through the building façade, expresses a dynamic and accessible judicial process.

The courthouse’s color and refined material palette is inspired by the coastal city’s Mediterranean characteristics. Façade materials include terracotta, precast concrete, and cast-in-place concrete, selected for their qualities of strength and permanence.

Credits