Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - public buildings - courthouses

Designers: Clark Construction Group, LLC, Building Contractors (firm); Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, (SOM), Los Angeles, CA (firm); John Ogden Merrill (architect); Nathaniel Alexander Owings (architect); Louis Skidmore Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 2012-2016

10 stories, total floor area: 633,000 sq. ft.

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350 West 1st Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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The building occupied the northwest corner of West 1st Street and Broadway.

Overview

This striking new courthouse added 633,000 square feet of new office and courtroom space for the busy United States District Court for the Central District of California; this included 24 courtrooms and 32 judicial chambers and accommodated trial preparation space for the U.S. Attorneys’ Office and the Federal Public Defender. In addition to the court, the U.S. Marshals Service occupied space in the new facilty. Its unique faceted window design was conceived to reduce internal thermal variation, maximize daylight and save energy compared to a standard curtain wall building of the past. It was designed to attain the US Green Building Council's LEED Platinum certification, the industry's highest standard for energy efficiency and sustainability. Some in Congress disputed the need for this additional courthouse, particularly as its costs escalated during its long period of planning lasting over a decade. The Los Angeles Times stated in 2012: "After the courthouse's projected cost ballooned to $1.1-billion in 2008, the design was scaled back. At one point, the project had included 54 courtrooms. Current plans call for a 600,000-square-foot facility with 24 courtrooms and 32 judges' chambers." (See Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times.com, "Construction plans for downtown L.A. federal courthouse announced," published 01/20/2012, accessed 05/09/2017.) Others in Congress, and the judiciary, however, demanded the facility, but its original size was scaled back to make it more affordable. It was completed about six months late but roughly on budget by 09/2016.

Building History

This was the fifth building constructed by the federal government to serve its court system and other agencies. Erected at a cost of $340 million, this courthouse was located on the former 3.6-acre site of the State of California's Junipero Serra Office Building, which was torn down in 2007. The official groundbreaking occurred on and was completed about three years later. Judges began to move into the new facility by mid-09/2016. A local real estate web site, the Real Deal stated: "Although the building is ready for move-in, the transition itself will not be complete until mid-November, the Los Angeles Business Journalreported. The process will involve installing security systems, relocating case files and fine-tuning logistics to ensure that court services will run smoothly despite the move." (See the Real Deal.com, "LA’s $340M futuristic new courthouse awaits federal judges," accessed 05/09/2017.) The building was officially dedicatedon 10/13/2016, and opened for public use on 11/07/2016.

This courthouse was one of several new public buildings built in Downtown Los Angeles during the 2010s. "The new courthouse is part of a revitalization of downtown Los Angeles, which includes of a new Police Department headquarters, the California Department of Transportation Building, a $234-million makeover of the Hall of Justice, and the newly developed Grand Park," the Los Angeles Times observed in 2013. (See Matt Reynolds, Los Angeles Times.com, "Work Begins on new L.A. Federal Courthouse," published 08/12/2013, accessed 05/09/2017.)

The General Services Administration commissioned the Los Angeles office of the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill to design the innovative Cube, as it has been called, working with the Clark Construction Group, LLC, as General Contractors.

Building Notes

SOM wanted the building to display a familiar air of dignity and monumentality, utilizing modern materials and technologies. SOM said of this building on its web site: "The design of the new United States Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles is both modern in spirit and rooted in classic principles of federal architecture. It uses traditional architectural elements such as processional steps, grand public spaces, and enduring materials like limestone to achieve a strong civic identity. Envisioned as a "floating" cube, the building employs an innovative structural engineering concept that cantilevers the glass volume above its stone base, making the courthouse contemporary in material, technology, and form." (See SOM, "New United States Courthouse--Los Angeles," accessed 05/09/2017,)

During the Obama Administration, the Federal Government required energy-efficient buildings. SOM stated: "Sustainability was a driving factor for the courthouse from the beginning: it is designed to achieve LEED® Platinum certification and meet the GSA’s 2020 energy objective. The building incorporates a variety of sustainable design features, including a rooftop photovoltaic array that is intended to generate 507,000 kWh of renewable energy on an annual basis. Perhaps the most visible sustainable design feature is the facade—a solution that gracefully responds to the conditions of the site. A key challenge for the design team was to manage intense sun exposure from the east and west while maintaining the building's alignment with the street grid. SOM's pleated facade design minimizes solar impact by aligning planes of glass toward the north and south, while also maximizing natural daylight inside the courthouse. This design reduces annual solar radiation load by 47 percent, and decreases central plant load by 9 percent." (See SOM, "New United States Courthouse--Los Angeles," accessed 05/09/2017,) SOM not only utilized its unusual corrugated skin to control solar penetration of the building, but also employed a new "all-in-one cooling, heating and power system," as well as "high efficiency building systems, water-efficient fixtures, and advanced irrigation systems" to earn LEED Platinum points. (See Matt Reynolds, Los Angeles Times.com, "Work Begins on new L.A. Federal Courthouse," published 08/12/2013, accessed 05/09/2017.)

The building also utilized a novel structural system to reduce threats from both earthquakes and terrorist explosions. "The courthouse design also mitigates blast threats by using a novel truss system to increase the standoff between the perimeter and primary structure, while still allowing the cube to appear as a single, hovering form. To protect against seismic events and control the building’s lateral drift, the roof truss is used as a mega link beam that connects the reinforced concrete shear walls at the top story and reduces ductility demands." (See SOM, "New United States Courthouse--Los Angeles," accessed 05/09/2017,)

Compared to the 1940 Courthouse on Spring Street, transportation of prisoners will be much easier in this new facility. The Los Angeles Times reported at its dedication: "General security and how people in custody are handled will be improved in the new building, said Randall Schnack, chief deputy of judicial services for the court’s Central District of California. Currently, marshals must escort shackled inmates through public hallways and elevators. In the new courthouse such movements will be made in secure areas, [Randall] Schnack said." Schnack spoke at the dedication and was the Chief Deputy of Judicial Services for the United States District Court for the Central District of California. (See Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times.com, "New, state-of-the-art federal courthouse officially opens in downtown L.A.," published 10/13/2016, accessed 05/09/2017.)

PCAD id: 21219