✱ Fontana Courthouse Expansion & Remodel Project Wins AIA Design Award


Fontana Superior Courthouse

As a designer on the project, I am extremely proud to announce that the Fontana Superior Courthouse Expansion & Remodel Project took an Honorable Mention Design Award in the Civic category at the AIA Inland Chapter 2011 Design Awards.

I talk a lot about the tools we use for design here on Method, but I want to stress how much I get out of visiting my projects that have been built. I used several digital tools to model this project during the design process including SketchUp and Revit. None of the design and previsualization can compare to actually being in the space, which is what architecture is really about for me. It truly does invoke a personal, emotional response from me. This is why I do what I do. Space can indeed change us. This is just part of a possible future blog post I'm sure.

Stay tuned to the end of this post where you can see some of the process images, renderings and photographs of the project.

Here is a narrative I wrote for the project to better understand it:

Two issues were apparent from the outset of the design process. First is the aesthetic of the existing building, and second is the location. The existing building that is to be expanded is a concrete block, two-story court facility with a tile mansard roof built in the 1970’s. The courthouse is in a rough neighborhood overflowing with decrepit architecture. A clean visual break was necessary. To create a clear point of entry and separation from the less-than-desirable aesthetic of the existing building, an architectural language was developed that carries throughout the project. A sense of pride is established by injecting new energy into a stale context and providing the client with a building that raises the level of public perception where it is desperately needed.

Careful blending of old and new is facilitated by the play of landscape, hardscape and interior planter elements. The design draws a seamless connection between exterior and interior space. Stained concrete floors inside the lobby extend to the exterior forecourt where seat walls and a grand stair act as passive vehicle protection as well as create usable outdoor areas for seating and queuing. This area is designed to be a safe place for people to gather as they wait to enter through security screening. 

Trees, bamboo, and horsetail reed create a landscape buffer and ease some of the hard building edges. Planters are intertwined into the hardscape to integrate landscaping and bring down the scale where horizontal and vertical edges meet. The precast concrete horizontal plane from the existing courthouse is carried into the addition and is expressed as a cover over the exit doors. This downplays the building exit from the exterior which alleviates confusion about the building lobby entrance.

The end result is a lobby that peels away from the marching linear circulation corridor to bring attention to the new public entry and create a sense of identity for the courthouse by visually and spatially vaulting toward the main street to the south of the building. Uplighting helps float the entry roof while sleek materials including metal and glass draw the eye toward the building. This further solves the problem of a potential future courthouse addition by detaching the bulk of the lobby from the main public corridor, therefore alleviating a costly demolition and addition. The final design solution provides for uninterrupted use of the facility when planned additional expansions are realized.

View all of the 2011 award entries on the AIAIC website here.

View the Image Gallery for the project here.

Project Scope:

17,800 SF Addition to an existing court facility. New spaces include a new lobby, courtrooms, jury assembly and support spaces. Minor remodel of the existing public corridor is also included.

Project Description:

The Fontana Courthouse project was conducted in a two-phased approach, consisting of the remodel of the existing 9,000 SF, and an addition of 18,000 SF. The resulting modernization and additions give the Court three new courtrooms, a judge’s chambers, a jury assembly area, jury deliberation rooms, restrooms, and an elevator. The remodel also eases workflow layouts and makes it easier for visitors to navigate throughout the space. The long-term approach to the new project allows room for future expansion.