Renovation of a Historic Courthouse
Leers Weinzapfel Associates recently completed the Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield, Ma., the latest in a series of the firm’s award-winning courthouses and civic structures. Located on Main Street in a historically attentive town, the 109,080-square-foot, $66 million project combines the renovation of the 1930s Franklin County Courthouse with a new addition. Adding significant space, the initiative reconceives the original building to create a coherent new whole for Greenfield’s judicial future.
The project’s design carefully restores the front of the original brick courthouse for use by the clerk and probation departments. Modern functional requirements for evolving use necessitated a reconfiguration and renovation of the structure that reduced it from 44,352 to 26,136 square-feet, but its historical sensibility is maintained through careful preservation of signature elements. Original lighting fixtures, millwork, and building carvings were restored and relocated to significant locales in the structure. The much larger 82,944-square-foot addition behind it houses a new entry, six courtrooms, a law library, detainee circulation, and a jury pool room.
Despite its size, the addition does not overwhelm the scale of the existing building. The elements above the historic structure’s cornice are light and ephemeral, reflecting the sky. The glazed top floor sits above a three-story masonry block, made of the same limestone as the base of the original courthouse. The entry was relocated from Main Street to the side where the old and new buildings converge to provide accessibility and address circulation and wayfinding. An extended roof canopy and glass wall frame the new entry and public zone of the courthouse.
The separated prisoner, judge, and visitor circulation paths do not cross until they meet at the courtrooms. Serene and luminous, these spaces are filled with natural light, providing theaters for the judicial process that is vital to democracy. The project will receive LEED Silver certification.
“The initial challenge was to design a large modern courthouse in the smaller scale context of Greenfield,” says Leers Weinzapfel Principal Josiah Stevenson. “By restoring the historic front, we maintained the town scale, and we worked to make the large addition an appropriate scale as well. The original building now houses support spaces for the courts while the addition comprises high ceiling courtrooms and the welcoming public entry. Together, the old and new recognize the historic past of the Franklin County Judiciary while providing a facility for the future.”
“One key to this project was the combination of the existing historic courthouse and the new addition,” says DCAMM Commissioner Carol Gladstone. “Leers Weinzapfel has done an extraordinary job of blending old and new and creating spaces that speak to the trial court’s vision of justice with dignity.”