Bronx County Hall of Justice
Bronx County Hall of Justice
Bronx, New York2006 72,000 m²
The Bronx County Hall of Justice stands prominently on its two-block site facing East 161st Street near the borough’s Grand Concourse. The building houses forty-seven courtrooms, seven grand jury rooms, offices, and provides underground parking for 240 vehicles.
Incorporating the building within the surrounding community was important during the design process. While natural light and views were desirable, heightened security requirements demanded protective design.
The L-shaped building forms the edges of a public courtyard, reinforcing the commercial street wall and embracing the neighboring communities with an open and engaging civic plaza.
The Hall of Justice expresses the judicial system’s openness and transparency through an innovative translucent curtain wall: fritted glass lets daylight deep into the building and screens the private circulation corridors. This accordion-fold curtain wall includes “light shelves” that reflect daylight and reduce heat and glare. Diffused glazing renders interiors effectively opaque from street level, while providing exterior views from inside. The jury assembly room, adjacent to the building in a separate mass, is a visceral symbol of the true seat of justice.
Inside, building functions are layered in zones of public access for visitors and clients, providing private access for staff. Individual courtrooms comprise most of the floor plan; stairs, detainee areas, and mechanical system distribution are found in the building core.
With slab-to-slab heights of eighteen feet, the courtrooms possess a commanding yet appropriate sense of scale, seating sixty spectators and sixteen jurors. Many are equipped with the latest audio-visual and computer technology. In grand jury rooms, individual flat screens allow the jurors to view evidence from their chairs. Custom-designed benches, cabinetry, and paneling recall historic courtrooms of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Energy conservation is realized with extensive use of day-lighting, high-performance low-e insulated glass, energy-efficient supplemental lighting, and heating and air conditioning systems that incorporate displacement ventilation, making the building a courthouse that serves its community as well as the environment.
“The long-awaited opening of the Bronx County Hall of Justice, almost fifteen years after the design was produced, speaks about the endurance of the ideas that guided its development,” says Rafael Viñoly, “the manifestation of the inherent transparency of the legal process, the provision of public accessibility that positively contributes to the urban conditions of its setting, and the achievement of the environmental performance that is required of any building of this scale. It is refreshing for me to see that the architecture that grew from these principles hasn’t lost its permanence.”