Vertical Courthouse – Are we Going too Far?

paris courthouse

The international architecture sector is quickly developing into a sector of ‘vertical’ structures. Vertical farming, vertical living and even vertical waste storage are becoming commonplace in this industry.

These modern skyscraper plans are popping up throughout the world, offering to maximise space in dense cities while keeping carbon footprints small and energy efficiency high.

The latest to join the ranks of the sky-high club is a Parisian Courthouse by architectural firm OMA. Paris is quickly becoming known for its clever use of space in the land-short city, with buildings positioned on rooftops popping up citywide. The plans for the new courthouse are no exception.

paris courthouse

While this architectural concept isn’t technically positioned on a rooftop, it does overhang building roofs.

With so much emphasis on moving upwards, however, does it make sense to position a courthouse in the urban fold? Is the sky-high trend going too far?

While the answers to those questions are debatable, the designers have used the vertical layout orientation to deliver what they see as the true essence of a functional courthouse. What the designers have endeavoured to create is an architectural representation of the law.

paris courthouse

They have done this by organising the building orientation into three separate and specifically designed sections: civil, criminal and office space.

At the centre of the development is the ‘tower’ and ‘hypercore system’. On either side of the tower sit the civil and criminal public spaces or courtrooms. Each space has its own identity, offering to both differentiate and exemplify the civil and criminal spaces. The civil area is designed in an extroverted manner, looking out over the city, which relates to the low threat level posed by those who will use it. In comparison, the criminal space is introverted and designed around a ‘three dimensional void’, offering a very modern spin on the security measures of the criminal courtroom.

paris courthouse

While it may exemplify a modern take on the law, this design does bring up a number of important questions for us in the industry which must be considered before we are lost in a sea of vertical lifestyles. Are we positioning these important buildings – ones that house criminals from all walks of life – too close to residential areas, contradicting metropolitan urban planning strategies of old? Are we losing urban planning zones that allow for decentralisation and lack of proximity? And perhaps most importantly, is this really a problem?

By Emily D’Alterio
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