Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Facts about Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse
225,206 ft2 (5.17 acr)
Project size: 270,000 ft2
Morphosis project team:
Ung-Joo Scott Lee
Natalia Traverso Caruana
DLR Group project team:
GSA Northwest Region 10
Photographed by Tim Griffith
Last updated: December 19, 2013