County of Kings Superior Court - New Hanford Courthouse
Design Achievement - Within the constructed landscape, the new Hanford Courthouse makes a unique statement while harmonizing with its immediate surroundings. Bordered by single-family neighborhoods to the north and an undeveloped parcel to the south, the site remains within walking distance of the County government center. DLR Group's design situates the building in a connected relationship with surrounding facilities while taking advantage of views to the mountains, and creates a clear pathway to the entry encouraging public procession into the building. The entry lobby serves the building in a central location at the atrium, while the monumental stair rises through all four stories allowing light to come into the middle of the building and all courtrooms. This four-story space provides a referential interior space, but links the users to the outside with views through the building and landscape beyond.
Scope Summary - The 144,000 SF courthouse is organized around four courtrooms per floor, with judges' chambers and other services strategically located to provide private access to courtrooms. The building is placed near the southeast corner of the site in proximity to an existing jail. This orientation takes advantage of views to the mountains from all north facing offices while minimizing direct views of the jail. This relationship allows for the two buildings to connect by extending an existing underground tunnel. The design team oriented the building to reduce heat loads in the summer and allow full sun during the winter to support the overall energy efficiency goals of the project. A partial basement houses the central holding facility accessed only by the northwest stair, with secured elevators separating the public and staff from in-custody individuals being moved from the jail tunnel into the courtrooms. DLR Group provided planning, programming, architecture and engineering services for this project.
"The security is unparalled as far as I'm concerned. It's a tremendous benefit to the County."
- Hon. Steve Barnes, Kings County Judge
See ABC's coverage of the ribbon cutting ceremony, including interviews County representatives.
Site context, analysis, and design
The City of Hanford is located in the south central San Joaquin Valley region of California. It is situated between the Diablo mountain range and the footprint of what was once Tulare Lake, a now dried-up lake that helped create the rich soil the area is noted for. This thriving agricultural region is comprised largely of farmlands, which provide a canvas on which to design a building that evokes the region and the spirit of the community.
The site is largely flat and without any notable features or topography. Bordered by residential, single-family neighborhoods to the north and an undeveloped parcel to the south, the site remains within walking distance to the County government center. Sitting at the transition between residential and commercial zoning challenged the project to create its own rhythm and orientation, which will affect the future development of the area.
Given the blank site, the design team worked to develop a methodology for creating a constructed landscape. The site was mapped using the traditional measurement of rods and furlongs to define acres as long narrow strips. Within these areas, parking and building must be accommodated. The balance of the site was programmed as a series of pathways or “areas of movement “ and green spaces or “areas of rest.” Within the constructed landscape, the new building will present itself as a territory within a landscape. It will have its own clearly defined edges and presence while still harmonizing with its immediate surroundings.
The building is set back from the main street corner to allow the architecture to sit within the constructed landscape. As part of an overall sustainable approach, the site is a combination of ordered parking and circulation paths, with several green spaces for people to stop and engage with the environment. The water captured on site will be kept on site. A bio-retention cell integrated into the landscape plan will allow rainwater to infiltrate back into the water table.
The placement of the building on the site allows for the creation of a significant exterior plaza which elevates the building and establishes its civic presence. The plaza will culminate in a grand “dry lake,” which harkens back to presence of the Tulare Lake in the region and creates a strong reference point at the entry. The plaza rises up to a plinth, elevating the courthouse and giving it its due sense of importance.
The building is designed as a window opening to the agricultural vistas of the region. The central atrium space is expressed on the southern and northern facades by two glazed openings at the scale of the building. These openings bring dramatic levels of natural light into the heart of the building and help create a strong symbolic connection from within the building to the surrounding context.
The openings are architecturally framed to enhance the delineation of the window motif. The atrium window and the entrance pavilion are all architecturally linked together through a cornice element that defines a major urban courtyard leading into the entrance pavilion.
The interior is organized around a central atrium. This 4-story space not only provides a referential interior space, but links the users to the outside with views through the building and beyond. The first time visitor can easily navigate between the floors and departments that branch off this single space. A grand stair connects the upper and lower floors as an extension of the procession to the courtrooms.
The pedestrian nature of the interior circulation supports principles of sustainability and personal well being. Daylight into the atrium is bolstered by a skylight in the roof, which provides light from above. This connection between the outdoors and nature was an important design goal that is reflected in both the public and private office areas. Interior materials are a continuation of the exterior material palette. Stone and wood are used to clad interior surfaces and reinforce the dialogue between inside and out.
American Institute of Architects (AIA) San Fernando Valley