Impartiality, fairness and equality are all part of the vocabulary used to describe the American justice system. Historically, most courthouses have been imposing structures designed to convey that message with enduring strength and dignity. The architecture of the new Bill Santucci Justice Center in Placer County, CA, speaks of the symbols associated with the justice system with a voice that reflects the modernity of our times.
Located in California’s magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains, Placer County stretches from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe and the Nevada border. One of the fastest-growing regions in the state, Placer County’s population has increased by over 25,000 people in the past four years alone. To meet the increased demand for Court services, Placer County officials commissioned the architectural firm of Dreyfuss & Blackford of Sacramento to design the courthouse and master plan for a new county government centers on a 100-acre site in Roseville that includes approximately 33 acres of restored vernal wetlands.
Working closely with the county’s Capital Improvements Division, with the judges and staff of the courts, and with the state Administrative Office of the Courts, the firm created a concept that embraced the clients’ concerns about security and transparency. The Justice Center is a light-filled structure with a commanding presence, and is sited to make the most of the dramatic views of the vernal wetlands to the south. The architects used an economical pairing of materials: site-cast concrete, steel frame with storefront, Reynobond ACM panels and polished India Black stone veneer. A monumental canopy fabricated in Custom Silver Reynobond ACM and bracketed in polished black stone denotes the entry on the northern elevation, the front and public entry side of the building. The lobby is remarkably transparent, with full-height glazing and skylights bathing the area in natural sunlight.
“Mating ACM panels with natural stone veneer and aluminum storefront was a logical and aesthetically successful move,” said John Webre, AIA, principal of Dreyfuss & Blackford. “The county did not have the budget for LEED® certification, so we simply applied the best sustainable principles to the design of the building, using renewable materials, low-VOC finishes, highly energy-efficient systems and, of course, pre-finished aluminum composite materials. To be honest, ACM was originally specified for the aesthetic it adds to the composition. It fits well with the design motif and civic quality of the building. That it has real sustainable qualities in terms of durability, minimal maintenance and recycled content is a bonus. Reynobond ACM met and exceeded the stringent design requirements without exceeding the budget.”
Alumawall of San Jose, CA, fabricated 20,000 sq. ft. of Reynobond ACM, 4 mm, FR core in Custom Gray with CW300XLE finish and 60,000 sq. ft. of Reynobond ACM, 4 mm, FR core in Custom Silver with CW3000XLE finish for the skylight wells, beam wraps, cone covers and interior walls, and exterior canopy and soffits. “It was a very complex job in terms of the geometry required to engineer the building, since very few of the panels are actually square,” said David Warda of Alumawall. “We had to use a unique instrument to shoot in points on the building, which allowed us to develop the geometry used to calculate the size and angles of each panel.” Alumawall installed the Reynobond panels in their 1400 series wet-seal system with ½” caulk joint. JB Management of Sacramento, CA was the general contractor on the project.
The centerpiece of the new Placer County government campus, the $54 million Bill Santucci Justice Center opened in July 15, 2008. The state-of-the-art courthouse comprises nine full-service courtrooms and a range of administrative support facilities including a childcare center, family services, mentoring services and research facilities. A stacked courtroom arrangement allows efficient and secure custody from the transfer facilities in the basement. In has unique, two-story, collegial judges’ chambers with an open communicating stair and a large common library overlooking the wetlands.
Photographs by Brett Drury Architectural Photography, Escondido, CA