Board of Commissioners gets first look at central courthouse design

February 9, 2016

Rendering of the new central courthouse

“I think we have some real exciting things to show you today,” JD Deschamps, an engineer with Multnomah County’s Facilities and Property Management told the board of commissioners Tuesday before a team of architects unveiled their design concept for the new central courthouse.

Picture this: Walk off SW First Avenue into a towering atrium, pass a garden on your way through security, then enter a lobby walled in glass.

The simple glass and pale limestone facade rises 17 stories, suggests the sharp transparency of Denver’s Lindsey-Flanigan Justice Center, hints at the sturdy disorder of Murcia’s City Hall in southeastern Spain.

An elevated western block wrapped in stone rises powerfully above the rest, punched widows cast light on judicial chambers inside. The deep eastern block of 44 courtrooms is framed with wide corridors walled in glass. Thick stone slabs outline views of the Willamette River and Cascade mountains.

“I can imagine someone stepping out of a courtroom and seeing that view,” said Steve Simpson, a senior associate at the architecture firm SRG Partnerships. “I think it would be quite a relief.”

Rendering of the new central courthouse
Additional rendering of the new central courthouse

Members of the courthouse project, which will be erected on county-owned land at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge, will continue refining the design as they prepare for the summer appearance before Portland’s design review board, county engineer Deschamps said. They anticipate having final plans for the 445,000-square-foot building approved by fall. Construction is scheduled to begin in January.

The project is projected to cost about $300 million; it replaces the county’s current courthouse, built more than 100 years ago. The county’s population has long since outgrown the existing building, which is also seismically unsafe.