Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse

January 22, 2007 /

Eugene, Oregon, USA

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Discrete object buildings - a reference back to an earlier single room courthouse model.

American courthouse architecture has moved away from the use of symbolic iconography to communicate the importance of the judicial process. Courtrooms are now routinely located in generic office towers - effectively repositioning the proceedings as business as usual - thus obscuring the gravity of the judicial process by excising the symbolism inherent in the traditional courtroom.

The Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse seeks to challenge this trend by expressing the courtrooms as discrete object buildings - a reference back to an earlier single room courthouse model.

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

The building is composed of two distinct strata, the honorific and the quotidian. The iconic elements are the courtrooms themselves, located in articulated pavilions that float above an orthogonal two-story plinth that houses office and administrative spaces. Their forms refer to the fluid nature of the American Judicial System - a system that is designed to remain flexible by being continuously challenged and reinterpreted by the proceedings of the courts.

The formal and structural organization of the plinth is mimetic of the Cartesian layout of the city, and thus represents the more static nature of Eugene's urban fabric upon which the organic and independent shapes of the courtrooms rest.

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Photo: ©Tim Griffith Ribbons of steel envelop the pavilions, articulating the movement sequence between the three courtroom clusters. The waiting areas and public corridors that connect the courtroom pavilions provide views to the surrounding mountains and a perception of light and the passage of time.

The entry occurs at the moment where the two systems collide, in a large open atrium, framed by the base's strict grid and sculpted by the fluid forms above.

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

The shapes of the pavilions emanate from the autonomous courtrooms themselves, whose soft forms are constricted to direct the focus to the witness stand and judge's bench. The jury boxes are partially recessed, isolated in an articulated space that refers to the juror's role as both observer and participant.

Photo: ©Tim Griffith

In the courtrooms, natural light is admitted through two thick-walled, large apertures--one above the judge's bench, and one above the spectator seating. The effect is that of a freestanding building, a unique and dignified place in which the court's raison d'être is architecturally legible.

Photo courtesy Morphosis
Site Plan

Photo courtesy Morphosis
Study Models

Rendering courtesy Morphosis

Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Plan Level One

Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Plan Level Four

Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Roof Plan

Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Section looking West

Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Section looking East

Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Section looking North

Facts about Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse

Site area:

225,206 ft2 (5.17 acr)
Project size: 270,000 ft2

Design Architect:


Executive Architect:

DLR Group

Morphosis project team:


Thom Mayne

Project Manager:

Kim Groves

Job Captain:

Maria Guest

Project Designer:

Ben Damron
Patrick Tighe
Eui-Sung Yi

Project team:

Caroline Barat
Linda Chung
Ted Kane
Ung-Joo Scott Lee
Rolando Mendoza
John Skillern
Martin Summers

Project Assistants:

Alasdair Dixon
Haseb Faqirzada
Dwoyne Keith
Laura McAlpine
Gerardo Mingo
Sohith Perera
Nadine Quirmbach
Michaela Schippl
Natalia Traverso Caruana

DLR Group project team:
Jon Pettit
Bill Buursma
Kent Larson

Project Architect:

Jim Conley
Jason Wandersee


GSA Northwest Region 10

Photographed by Tim Griffith

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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