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City of Tukwila Justice Center in the evening, with landscaping in the foreground. Single story double height glass facade building
City of Tukwila Justice Center

A Multi-Cultural Community Resource

Project Location

Tukwila, WA


47,000 SF


2021 AIA WA Civic Design Awards, Citation


Architecture, interiors, acoustical design services, MEP design, pre-design, security electronics and space programming

Two interstates, three state highways and multiple arterials thread through the City of Tukwila, a suburb of Seattle. The booming economy of the Emerald City to the north and the traffic that comes with it have swelled Tukwila’s population exponentially. In response, the city passed a public safety bond measure in 2016 to build four new fire stations, a justice center and a public works building. The design of the new justice center unites police, courts, and emergency operations – services currently scattered across multiple buildings – into one facility.

Tukwila’s growth has brought greater diversity, and now more than 180 languages are spoken in the city. The new justice center design accommodates occupants of all backgrounds. Visual cues in lieu of words provide a universal language of wayfinding. Court and probation interview rooms have technology for web conferencing, which allows local translators in the region to assist other remote locations. Sensitivity to cultural symbols was considered by the design team throughout the project to ensure the building serves as a safe and respectful place for all cultures.

Prior to the bond, the city’s council chambers doubled as a municipal courtroom, with the lack of secure entrances and separation of the public from defendants generating safety concerns. The police department was divided among four buildings, severing patrol from administrative staff. Now, 92 sworn officers and additional staff for police, court, probation and emergency operations center functions come together in the 47,000-SF building. Bond dollars were spread across multiple projects, creating tight budgetary and space constraints for the Justice Center that required sharing space between departments to ensure adequate conferencing and training spaces.

A central hub unifies departments and staff resource areas into one justice system. Simple forms and materials provide modern, safe and technologically advanced spaces that allow for the essential operations of the police and courts, and the EOC when activated. The project employed a GC/CM delivery method, and collaboration and communication between the design team and contractor kept the project on budget throughout every design phase. DLR Group provided space programming, pre-design, architecture, interiors, MEP design, security electronics and acoustical design services.

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