Montgomery County Circuit Court
Location: Rockville, Maryland
Sited in downtown Rockville, this court expertly mixes renovation and new design while prominently displaying its courtrooms as both figurative and literal pillars of the community.
The Montgomery County Circuit Court has become the eastern anchor for a revitalized government center and a symbol of the courts' important role in the community. Sited in downtown Rockville, this project involves the design of a new courts annex and renovation of parts of the existing courthouse. The design approach seeks balance, maintains cohesion through common purpose, and focuses on the compelling ideals of an orderly society.
Prominently displayed are the courtrooms, intended to become the central expression of the building. Each of the four sets of stacked courtrooms is given a unique figural expression as a powerful column or "pillar." The pillars, clad in copper-toned metal panels, represent the dignity of the judicial system. Each pillar is topped by glass "lanterns" that glow as beacons, highlighting the importance of the judicial system. The lanterns are powered by photovoltaic cells. The design improves circulation throughout the complex.
The expansion allowed for reconfiguration of the existing entry screening areas to provide additional screening stations and improved queuing and flow. This accommodates extensive indoor queuing. Reuse of the existing entries and creation of the new perpendicular public corridor to the annex allow the public circulation on the building's first floor to be organized in a simple, user-friendly "T" configuration to facilitate wayfinding. Areas of renovation were limited to roofing and HVAC upgrades, main public corridors, restrooms, and areas of ADA non-compliance as well as jury assembly, and additional areas affected by relocation and consolidation to the annex.
The annex features a four-court-per-floor organized around a north-south corridor that overlooks a shared government plaza and landscaped park. The public face is expressed with an extremely transparent glass curtainwall system looking out onto a shared plaza. Judicial officer spaces look out to both the District Court and the historic court plaza.
There is a clear expression of the courtroom in the planning, interior public spaces, and exterior architectural language. The inside-out design idea for the courtrooms and public spaces is reinforced by the transparent exterior envelope.