This is one of the practice's most significant projects of recent years and marks a distinct phase in the design philosophy of the practice. While respecting the historic setting and recognising the civic significance of the new building, the design is essentially a simple box that clearly reveals its function and organisation. The brief required complete separation of public and judicial circulation patterns: identifying the building's constituent parts resulted in a transparency that encourages a sense of accessibility and orientation.
Key elements of the design are the creation of public space and integration with the existing urban landscape. Public entry is facilitated via a flight of stairs placed to the side, while the great Salle des Pas Perdus is the core of the building, where lawyers, their clients and the public meet. The seven courtroom 'pods', are clad in cedar wood, raised on pilotis within a great glass wall under an undulating copper roof.
Public space flows around the ‘vessels’ containing the courtrooms which sit on a plinth of two levels of offices. All of the architectural elements are contained within a great steel frame with a 76 metre long glazed wall, exposing the courts to view from the landscaped courtyard. The entire composition is topped by an undulating, copper-clad roof that forms a loggia over the stairway between the external courtyard and the administration wing.
In contrast to the open, glazed Salle des Pas Perdus and the light-weight steel-framed roof, the courts themselves are contained spaces, lit naturally from the top. Tapered in section and rounded in plan, the forms of the courtrooms echo the mass of the adjoining medieval towers as well as recalling Kentish oast-houses and traditional boat-building. Supported on pilotis, they stand behind a near invisible glass curtain wall, their conical profile penetrating the roof above to facilitate natural ventilation.