Dennis Maes Pueblo Judicial Center

  • Client

    • Pueblo County (CO)
  • Project Type

Design Achievement - The new Pueblo County Courthouse is one of Pueblo's significant civic structures and a jewel in the Colorado Judicial system. DLR Group's design replaces an aging 60's courthouse re-energizing the downtown's commercial district, serving as a symbol of Pueblo's earlier history, recalling its cultural heritage and vitality. The selected site in Pueblo was an abandoned railway route and required environmental cleanup, which was completed by the County during early design stages. Sustainable features for the facility include lighting control systems, evaporative cooling and heating and cooling controllability, urban brownfield site redevelopment and alternative transportation.

Scope Summary - The 182,350 SF five-story building houses 16 district, ceremonial and first appearance magistrate courtrooms along with Clerk of Court, jury assembly and county probation offices. The secure basement level includes central holding and booking. The new judicial facility will provide more space and additional courtrooms to the County, and incorporates memorable goals for the center including creation of a high performance facility, daylighting for all spaces, and an open and inviting balance between function and civic presence, with an iconic look. DLR Group provided architecture design.

Project Goals
The Pueblo Combined Courts of the 10th Judicial District of the State of Colorado and the Pueblo County Courts have resided for over 20 years in a building ill-suited for judicial operations. In deciding to design and construct a new judicial facility in downtown Pueblo, Colorado, the Executive Committee and design team set a series of key goals which addressed current shortcomings and set the bar for what was expected as a finished project: 

  1. Design a high performance facility with LEED Silver certification as a minimum goal.
  2. Maximize day-lighting into all spaces.
  3. Strike a balance between function and civic presence.
  4. Craft a facility which will be open and inviting to the public.
  5. Create an iconic addition to Pueblo.


Site and Urban Design
The site chosen for the project was a former ice house on the western edge of downtown, chosen by the Courts, County and design team based on opportunity to link the Historic Downtown District with the River Walk District, improving the urban experience for the residents of Pueblo. An industrialized area underutilized and discarded for several years, the site underwent significant environmental cleanup and mitigation in order to make it suitable for new development.

Site Deployment and Contextual Relationships
Oriented in a north-south direction on the site, the building engages its context at a broad scale.  The building is essentially a linear bar bent slightly in the middle to receive the entry rotunda.  By orientating the building in such a manner it achieves two aims:

  • The first is to anchor the west end of the 5th street axis, using the rotunda as an exclamation point.
  • The second is an inflection which recognizes a diagonal axis which is the remnant of a rail line which at one time ran through the site.

This siting creates a conceptual “bracketing” of downtown Pueblo. The new courthouse completes the eastern edge of a rectangle formed by the historic courthouse on the north, the interstate highway on the east, and (on axis with the public plaza mentioned above), Antoine Predock’s Public Library to the south.

Orientation and Circulation
In orientating the building on a north/ south axis and keeping the building relatively thin, the design takes advantage of the direct east and west light to maximize the introduction of natural daylight deep into the spaces within. Also, this orientation sets up two advantageous view corridors, including the Rocky Mountains to the west.

The site is segregated into two parts:  the public realm to the east of the building, and the private / service realm to the west.  Public and staff parking is arrayed about the building to the east and north and is access from both Elizabeth and 6th Streets. Judges will park in a secure compound on the west side of the site.  Also located here is the sallyport and service yard.

Building Planning
As with almost all modern courthouses, the typical court floor drives the organization of the building.  Three pairs of courtrooms with holding between each pair are lined up with a public circulation corridor / waiting zone to the east and a private, secure corridor to the west. Jury deliberation rooms are located strategically In between each pair or at the end of the building.  The elevator lobby serves the building in a central location, thereby being easy to access.  Judges are housed in a rectangular “pod” nearly centered on the back of the tower so as to afford easy access to the courtrooms.

The first floor is organized around the rotunda, which becomes the main referential space in the building.  Off of the rotunda is the jury assembly area and further in, but equally easily accessible off the main corridor, are the public counters for the Court Clerk, the First Appearance Center, the Pro Se help center and the Child Waiting space. 

A monumental stair leads from the rotunda to the second floor which houses Probation and Records.  The fifth level contains four courtrooms as well as Court Administration, Regional Operations and Training, and the Chief Judge’s office.

Architectural Expression
In keeping with the goals set by the Executive Committee and the Design Team, the development of the architecture of the Pueblo Judicial Building has proceeded along two aims:

  • First, to create architecture that celebrates citizenship in Pueblo County, Colorado – that ties the building not only to its place in time but to the layers of history and culture unique to Pueblo.
  • Second, to recognize in the architectural expression the dignity and honor appropriate to a courthouse, allowing the function of the building to speak on its own.


With these ends in mind, the design team delved deeply into ideas of regional materials, imagery, and culture. Being a courthouse though, required us to reconcile these ideas to an abstraction of the language of classical Architecture – that of a vertical vocabulary organized in the classical formula of base, middle and top. The clarity of the elevations call attention the seriousness of what this building represents, connecting it the long line of classical civic architecture which has gone before, and setting it apart from the more superficial aspects of our day-to-day commercial architecture.

Massing and Organization
The design team worked both “inside-out” and “outside-in” to define the building massing. The architecture comprises two main parts that not only reflect the functional aspects of the building but also create a gesture to the context in which the building has been placed.

The courts tower is a long, thin, gently curved bar, which creates a gentle gesture to the 5th Street axis which terminates into the site.  The second component of the building is an east west element which is an extension of the plinth which grounds the curved bar.  It moves under the tower, turning up on the west side to become the judge’s chambers, and extending to the east to form the entry and jury assembly space. 

Resting on top of this latter extension is a glass cylinder which houses the rotunda.  Seen as the main referential space of the building, the rotunda can be seen as the formal “living room” of Pueblo, a space for the people to gather for civic celebrations. In the evening it becomes a beacon, highlighting the visual axis down fifth and acting as a referece point for both building and city.

Precedent and Imagery
The color palette of the building is derived from observations of the local landscape – a variety of subtle earth tones set against a brilliant, azure sky. This is exhibited by the contrast of the blue glass of curtain wall layered over the earth-toned precast of the tower. As a tertiary material the team has used metal panels, striking a connection the steel industry which powered Pueblo for most of the last century. The layering of the forms in the elevations is meant to be reminiscent of the layered nature of many Georgia O’Keefe’s landscape paintings of the region.  

The glass curtain wall envelope takes its cues from the monochromatic geometric patterns of Anasazi pottery, creating a slightly de-materializing effect which emphasizes the vertical line while simultaneously diminishing the scale.

The rotunda uses the kiva as a unique precedent. A ceremonial space typical of most Pueblo Indian cultures, the kiva is a circular space in plan. Around the perimeter the seating is built into the walls and in the center is an oculus in the roof above a fire pit. The design interprets this idea of outer enclosure and inner sanctum by placing within the glass cylinder a wood framed aedicule — a room within a room. The aedicule has a skylight oculus at the top and is framed loosely in a basket-like fashion so as to give the natural light entering the space a more filtered and sacred feeling. The form of this structure evokes the railroad-era coke ovens sprinkled throughout this region.

The Pueblo County Judicial Building will not only include many sustainable features and energy efficient design strategies it will also be LEED Silver Certified. The following are a few of the main concepts that are integral to the design:

Sustainable Sites
The site selected for the new judicial center was a previously developed industrial site on the two main axes through downtown, which led to: brownfield cleanup, careful development density and community connectivity, and providing access to alternative transportation by proximity to local existing bus lines and incorporating secure bicycle storage on site. To improve stormwater management, a below grade detention system as well as permeable pavers incorporated into the parking lot design reduce the amount of runoff.

Water Efficiency
To reduce the amount the fresh water withdrawn from local rivers and reservoirs as well as reducing maintenance and life cycle costs, the design includes drought tolerant native plantings in the landscape design, and incorporates ultra-low-flow fixtures throughout the building.

Energy & Atmosphere
By incorporating high efficiency HVAC units and alternative methods of energy, the amount of energy needed to run the facility is reduced. Commissioning of the building energy systems, elimination of harmful refrigerant chemicals, and the addition of Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) into the design spearhead the reduction of energy needed for the building to function and perform correctly.  

Materials & Resources
The Pueblo County Judicial Building will uses local, high recycled content and rapidly renewable materials as possible. Also a strict construction waste management plan helped eliminate the amount of waste going from the job site to the landfill.

Indoor Environmental Quality
Specifying materials and products with less harmful chemicals, increasing ventilation, incorporating daylighting, and giving the end user control of their environment achieved a high indoor environmental quality can be achieved for user health and wellbeing.

Awards & Recognition

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  • Award of Merit (unbuilt)

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) Colorado South
  • Award of Honor (unbuilt)

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) Orlando
  • BEST Award - Serve

    International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Rocky Mountain