Year: Spring 2019
Studio: Design 8 (Comprehensive Studio)
Professor: Martin Haettasch
Partner: Raymond Castro
Location: Austin, Texas


The judicial system keeps law and order; a balance and equality. The architecture that represents the power of the law and its institutions have evolved over time in form, but its essence as a monument has remained.

The project sits on the site like a giant rock. A translucent marble facade provides a unique illuminance for its interior spaces while maintaining the monumentality-ness of the material. To celebrate the justice system, and to create unique courtroom spaces, three masses extend out, up to a 40 feet cantilever, like a crystal from a rock. The three masses act in balance, a monument to justice. In the center lies the jury deliberation room, representatives of the public who are the true deciders of justice, further developing this metaphor for balance. A combination of copper and steel louvers that shield the three masses create an interference pattern that will oxidize over time, evolving the building’s identity over time; a symbol of stability of the justice system.


The new courthouse is diagonal to the existing courthouse, across the law library, and just a couple blocks from the state capitol. The placement of the project helps activate Woolridge Square while a new plaza creates a connection to the capitol grounds complex, promoting more public interaction.

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Courthouses require a complex level of circulation: the separation of public, judges, and accused parties. The courtrooms and structural cores are arranged in that associated parties are able to circulate horizontally and vertically independently of each other.


A space in the middle is sculpted out of the stone to create an intimate courtyard space on top of an impressive atrium space. The cafeteria space is then allowed to bleed out into this outdoor area. Terraces are carved out of the back side of the building for outdoor space for workers to take breaks with views of downtown and the capitol. Daylighting is then able to penetrate into all faces of the building.


The louver system for the cantilevered masses provide daylighting for the courtrooms while giving thermal shading and privacy that a courtroom requires. A combination of copper and steel warp and create an interference pattern between the two and will eventually oxidize so that the building’s identity will evolve over time; the stability of the judicial system.

The rest of the supporting structure has a double facade, a layer of glass and a layer of translucent stone. The stone thermally shades and main enclosure and the air gap between the two facades provide passive ventilation through the stack effect. The floors bow out further as you go up in height so the layer of depth at which the stone casts shadow on the glass change at different elevations.


In order to achieve the floating masses, a combination of a steel and concrete stucture are used. A structural steel cage with trusses is attached to structural cores. A diagonal member also ties back from end to core for additional support.

All mechanical systems are hosted in the basement, including air handling units. Intake and exhaust are hidden by the building and landscape elements. This frees up roof space to be filled with photovolatic panels that passively provide energy. All systems will run veritcally through the structural cores of the building.