Safdie to design new federal courthouse in Mobile, Alabama

Moshe Safdie and Associates has been selected by the U.S. General Services Administration to design the new Federal Courthouse in Mobile, Alabama. Under the auspices of the Design Excellence Program, Safdie’s firm won the competition, which inlcuded submissions from Wolf Architecture, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects and Garrison and Siegel Architects. The buidling, a low-rise design proposal, will have a strong civic presence on Mobile’s St. Joseph Street, a principal north-south axis in the downtown core where the existing John A. Campbell courthouse sits. A great glazed portico entrance extends westwards as a colonnaded arcade, accommodating a grand stair that rises to every level of the building. The colonnade curves around the two-block site, encircling a cluster of mature oak trees along St Louis Street. Additional planting will extend the landscape to form a south-facing civic piazza in which the oaks, a reflective pool and hard and soft landscaping will provide for an active public space. The provision of natural daylight is a central theme in the design, which includes south-faing public spaces and a linear lightwell traversing the length of the building and providing daylight to offices throughout the building. All courtrooms are fitted with skylights and windows. The palette of materials includes white, painted steel columns in the colonnade, clear glass with exterior sunshading and light buff Alabama limestone cladding with matching pre-cast walls. Construction is set to begin in 2004 and the building opening is set for early 2007.