AECOM's designs for additions and renovations to Maryland's Montgomery County Circuit Court
As the seventh major courthouse project in the history of Montgomery County, this new LEED-NC gold complex will become the anchor for a revitalised government center and a symbol of the courts’ important role in the community. Sited at the intersection of East Jefferson Street and Maryland Avenue in downtown Rockville, this project involves the design of a 191,000-gross sq ft new courts annex and renovation of the existing 327,000-gross sq ft courthouse.
The new four-court-per-floor layout organised around a north-south corridor facing the plaza and newly landscaped park does not have an entry but a connection. Each of the four sets of stacked courtrooms is given a unique figural expression as a powerful column or 'pillar'. These pillars, clad in a richly textured skin of copper, represent the traditional columns at the courthouse entry. Each courtroom pillar is topped by channel glass 'lanterns' which will be powered by the photovoltaic cells on the roof and will provide an elegant profile for the Rockville skyline.
The east façade of the annexe is designed as a wholly transparent structurally glazed wall that provides both a fantastic view to the exterior as well as a view into the public gallery and of the activities within. This monumental glass wall effectively symbolises the transparency and open access afforded the users of the court system. The western façade of the annexe is marked by four vertical elements, or 'windows' clad in copper and glass curtain wall components. In contrast to the unifying glass curtain wall of the public gallery to the east, the windows on the west façade represent the individual efforts of the judiciary and staff instrumental in carrying out the process of justice.
The courtrooms are a place of solemnity and deliberation, a sanctuary where the spoken word of written law has powerful impact. Because the courtrooms themselves generate the form of the building and are such a defining feature, the entry into these spaces becomes extremely important. The copper material carries through into the interior gallery framing each entry detailed as an open, transparent invitation. Once inside, the curved form is continued and yet gently pulls apart to reveal the copper enclosure that it sits within. The wood paneling provides a warm, richly textured environment in a contemporary expression based on the traditional wood paneling of historic courtrooms. Highlighting the importance and neutrality of the judge is a wall of simply detailed white stone located directly behind the bench.