Law and Order

When the joint venture of the DuBois Plumb Partnership and Carruthers Shaw Limited Architects was selected in 1992 to design a new provincial courthouse for the Southwestern Ontario city of Windsor, the program called for a facility with 17 courtrooms. Working within guidelines established as part of an urban design study for the city’s emerging civic centre–an area that includes City Hall and other government buildings–the architects developed a seven-storey scheme flanking a landscaped view corridor from City Hall to the Detroit skyline to the north.

The scheme accommodated courtrooms of various configurations and sizes. However, as construction of the two below-grade levels approached completion in 1995, Ontario’s newly elected Conservative government eliminated the jury courtrooms from the program, reducing the total number of courtrooms to 11 and the above grade portion of the building by one half. Determined to retain the massing of the original scheme, the City of Windsor decided to incorporate within the same building the reduced 11-room courthouse and a new Police Headquarters initially planned for a site immediately to the east. Not only did this make use of the original building mass, it also brought together under one roof two distinct but related facets of the judicial system.

Although related, the two components must function independently of one another, resulting in two distinct entrances on opposite sides of the building. With its public lobby at the building’s southwest corner, the Police Headquarters takes up about half of the first floor, one third of the second and almost all of the third and fourth. A portion of the second floor is shared by the two functions, essentially in the form of holding cells. Including the cells within the complex allows for a high degree of ease and security in the transfer of accused from temporary incarceration to the courtrooms, all by means of a dedicated secure circulation system.

The courthouse is entered through a large public atrium that spans the east side of the building, overlooking the landscaped view corridor, what would have been the site of the Police Headquarters, and Casino Windsor beyond. Macy DuBois acknowledges the influence of Arthur Erickson’s Courthouse Square in Vancouver, which is reflected in the glazed atrium, monochromatic palette in shades of grey, and the courtroom design, where the more ornate trappings of traditional courtrooms are eschewed in favour of crisply detailed wood finishes. The courtroom levels include generous public spaces at the building perimeter, surrounding the internalized courtrooms and offering generous daylighting and views. Behind the courtrooms, dedicated circulation routes allow the judiciary to travel between the trial spaces and their seventh-storey offices with complete security.

Although the interior is a complex interweaving of judicial and police spaces, the exterior is expressed as a unified building. There are abstracted references to traditional neo-classical courthouse design: at ground level, a colonnade wraps around the east, south and west elevations, and the primary cladding material is precast concrete finished to resemble the colour and texture of Indiana limestone. The building envelope consists of rainscreen air gap insulated precast concrete wall panels, with a 65 mm thick outer wythe (the finish panel), a 20 mm air space, 100 mm of rigid insulation and a 135 mm structural inner wythe. The design allows for complete pressure equalization within the panels, and all connecting hardware is located on the warm side of the wall system, eliminating thermal bridging, the penetration of air/vapour barriers and the possibility of condensation around the anchors. The project’s technical sophistication was recognized with the 2001 Ontario Concrete Award of Architectural Merit in the Precast Concrete category.

Extensive use of concrete as a finish material, combined with the strong horizontal window treatment on the north and south elevations, refers not only to the acknowledged influence of the Erickson courthouse, but more generally reflects a late modernist approach to large institutional buildings in Canada. The project is distinguishable from that generation of work at a detail level, for instance in the stainless steel strips with exposed fasteners and the variegated pattern of fenestration on the east elevation, resulting in a less austere expression. And, in sharp contrast to its eclectic surroundings (the large casino to the east and rather undistinguished commercial, residential and hotel towers to the north and west), the Justice Facility establishes a suitably sober anchor for Windsor’s civic centre. MP

Windsor Justice Facility, Windsor, Ontario

The DuBois Plumb Partnership Incorporated/Carruthers Shaw and Partners Limited Architects in Joint Venture/Associated with W.A. Fraser, Architects

Windsor Justice Facility, Windsor, Ontario

The DuBois Plumb Partnership Incorporated/Carruthers Shaw and Partners Limited Architects in Joint Venture/Associated with W.A. Fraser, Architects

Client: Ontario Realty Corporation

Users: Attorney General of Ontario/ City of Windsor Police Services

Architect team: John Hackett (project director), Macy DuBois (principal in charge of design), Bob Stiff (principal in charge of documentation), Bill Fraser (principal in charge of field review)

Structural: Stanley Technology Group Inc.

Mechanical/Electrical: Chorley & Bisset Ltd.

Cost/Schedule: RPA Consultants Limited

Landscape: JSW & Associates

Lighting: William Lam

Interiors/Furniture: The DuBois Plumb Partnership Incorporated

Contractor: BFC Buildings

Site Services: Stantec Consulting

Security: JSI Systems Division

Audio-visual: Valcoustics Canada Ltd.

Building Code: Hine Reichard Tomlin Inc.

Elevator: KJA Consultants Inc.

Traffic/Parking: BA Consulting Group Ltd.

Signage/Wayfinding: Karo International

Area: 355,000 square feet

Budget: $47,600,000

Completion: December 1999

Photography: Lenscape Inc.