Chapter 3: General Design Guidelines
The architecture of federal courthouses must promote respect for the tradition and
purpose of the American judicial process. To this end, a courthouse facility must
express solemnity, stability, integrity, rigor, and fairness. The facility must also
provide a civic presence and contribute to the architecture of the local community.
To achieve these goals, massing must be strong and direct with a sense of repose, and
the scale of design should reflect a national judicial enterprise. All architectural
elements must be proportional and arranged hierarchically to signify orderliness. The
materials employed must be consistently applied, natural and regional in origin,
durable, and invoke a sense of permanence. Colors should be subdued and
complement the natural materials used in the design.
Security is essential to the basic design of courthouses. Courthouse security is
complex in that court components and circulation patterns require varying degrees of
security. In addition, multiple organizations are responsible for security in the
courthouse. It is critical that the architecture and engineering (A/E) team consider the
security implications of every aspect of design. No amount of security equipment and
personnel can effectively secure a building that has been designed with poor security.
Security concerns, including demonstrations, weapons, witness and jury intimidation,
bombs, property control, etc., are inherent to courthouses. Optimal courthouse security
is a fine balance between architectural solutions, allocation of security personnel, and
installation of security systems and equipment. Since security planning is a basic and
critical part of courthouse design, it must be factored in at the beginning of the design
Courthouse security systems can be divided into perimeter and interior security.
Perimeter security includes considerations of site location, parking, personnel security,
lighting, access control at building entrances, and intrusion detection/alarm systems.
Interior security includes personnel security, security of property and documents,
access control to interior spaces, personnel movement and circulation controls, security
aspects of spatial arrangements, and coordination between security and fire safety