New federal building for Massachusetts from Moshe Safdie
The United States Courthouse in Springfield, Massachusetts stands as a new civic landmark along the historic State Street corridor. Adjacent to the Cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese, the Museum Quadrangle and the Main Public Library, it forms part of the institutional district of a city rich in history but in need of revitalisation.
Completed in 2008, the courthouse contains three courtrooms with expansion space for a fourth and forms a spiraling crescent around two ‘heritage trees’ – a copper beech and a linden both believed to predate the Union. A colonnaded entry pavilion facing the visual axis from downtown leads to a curved colonnade accommodating a grand stair. The stair ascends to the building’s third and principal public level, where the courtrooms and jury suites are located.
A curved gallery tracing the colonnade and the trees, providing views to the south and of downtown and containing public sitting areas, leads to the courtrooms. The judges’ chambers are accommodated in a separate smaller structure, a parsonage-like annex to the main courthouse, that relates in scale to the existing residential buildings to the north and west.
The project embodies the fundamental principles established by the GSA for a building that supports the image of a “secure, dignified, efficient and aesthetically pleasing Federal Courts building” which contributes significantly to the community. For the City of Springfield, the new Courthouse functions as a catalyst for redevelopment, transforming a blighted urban site; now complete, it acts as an anchor for ongoing federally funded and private redevelopment.
The building’s entry and circulation spaces serve as an expression of the ritual of public life. Starting from the elevated plaza and entering through a single secure point, visitors move along the curved colonnade to the monumental stair ascending to the uppermost level where courtroom entrances are set within a 240 foot long mural by the artist Sol LeWitt. The material palette of limestone and precast concrete, contrasted with large expanses of glass that infuse the building with light, create a Courthouse that is a place of dignity with a sense of transparency from the city, and powerful connections to the surroundings from within.