WAN Awards

THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER 2014

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U.S. Courthouse, Alpine, United States

Thursday 30 Jun 2011
 

Rural courthouse for the 'Lone Star State'

 
© Chris Cooper Photography 
 
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Award Entry

Thoughtful materials and landscaping connect this courthouse to its local surroundings 

This courthouse is a very particular response to the extraordinary quality of the landscape, the climate of West Texas and the specific mission of its occupants. The simplicity and solidity of the building takes account of the powerful Trans-Pecos terrain that dominates this locale. Its materials - primarily russet-coloured dry-stacked local West Texas sandstone - link the building to the landscape while providing high thermal mass appropriate for this climate.

All of the departments housed in the Courthouse have a distinct 'front door' on an open covered walkway, which allows people to come and go without traveling through another unit. The walkway surrounds a landscaped courtyard, which contributes a sense of intimacy and beauty to all visitors. The court functions are appropriately elevated to the second floor. A double-height rotunda connects the two floors and provides a dignified, civic feeling.

Three sustainable design features are: high thermal mass (created by masonry walls of local sandstone) used to dampen diurnal temperature variations; extensive sun shading both to reduce heat gain at windows and provide cooler microclimates near select exterior walls and reduced conditioned space by using passively controlled exterior walkways. Particular attention was paid to exterior site accessibility, which is often neglected. Not only routes to doors, but also places for outdoor events under the entry trellis and in the courtyard were made accessible. Three separate circulation routes for prisoners, judges and the public were also made accessible.

Landscaping has been carefully designed and selected from local vegetation with a variety of cactus and succulents in front of the building complemented by a more intimate and softer selection of landscape in the courtyard. The overall result is a building that seems like it has always been here, working in close harmony with the geology, topography and ecology of its environment.

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Status Completed
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