Kerstin Thompson leads supreme court masterplanning

A multidisciplinary team led by Kerstin Thompson Architects has been appointed to develop a masterplan and design framework for the redevelopment of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

The team, which also includes PPP, Umow Lai, Veris, Andy Fergus and Bryce Raworth, has been tasked with developing scenarios to demonstrate how the court’s heritage buildings in Melbourne’s CBD could be modernized, expanded and adapted to support the court’s future needs and balance urban design, heritage, architecture, workplace and jurisprudential requirements.

The masterplan will encompass six sites in Melbourne legal precinct, which includes the Supreme Court of Victoria on the corner of William and Lonsdale streets, and the adjacent Court of Appeals and Old High Court buildings.

The Supreme Court is part of a complex of buildings collectively known as the Melbourne Law Courts. The building’s design is the result of a competition conducted by the Public Works Department in 1873, which caused a scandal among the architectural fraternity when architect A. L. Smith and A. E. Johnson won the competition, when Johnson was on the judging panel. Detailed drawings of the building were conducted by J. J. Clark and P. Kerr.

The building took 10 years to construct and the first sitting was held in February 1884. The building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

“The Law Courts are architecturally significant as an example of the Renaissance Revival style on a very grand and imposing scale, with a severity befitting its function. The boldness of planning and massing and the mannerist details are highly characteristic of the work of the architect AE Johnson,” its statement of significance reads.

“The Law Courts are architecturally significant for the excellence of the carving of the Tasmanian freestone and the Malmsbury bluestone base. Additionally significant internally are the very elaborate moulded plasterwork on walls and ceilings, and the robust detailing of the benches, Judges’ canopies, and cedar panelling.

“The Law Courts are the largest court buildings in Australia to be built to a single design, and the planning solutions for the separation of different groups of courts was unprecedented.

“The Law Courts are […] significant for its origins in a design competition in 1873 that scandalized the architectural profession, due to the close professional relationship between one of the assessors, George Johnson and the winner Alfred Smith.

“It was the largest single building project in the country at the time and one of the last public building projects before the depression of the 1890s halted most building works across the State until the turn of the century.”

The building is square shaped in plan, with each street facade measuring 85 metres. It has one court at each corner and four more courts along the north and south wings as well as administrative offices and judges’ chambers, all enclosing a circular courtyard. The Supreme Court Library sits at the centre of the courtyard.

According to the heritage statement of significance, “The design is reputed to be based on the design of James Gandon’s Four Courts building in Dublin, following a suggestion to Smith and Johnson by Chief Justice Sir William Stawell.”

A Strategic Asset Plan 2016–2031 developed by Court Services Victoria found that the “Supreme Court infrastructure is no longer fit-for-purpose with insufficient and inadequate facilities resulting in significant issues including safety and security, demand, functionality, condition, compliance and risk of failure.”

It also identified opportunities to “Develop and construct a new purpose-built Supreme Court within the precinct, ending the campus model of Supreme Court infrastructure [and] develop alternative uses by the Supreme Court and related institutions within the precinct (educational, support, professions) for the existing Supreme Court historic buildings.”

Kerstin Thompson, design director of Kerstin Thompson Architects said, “We appreciate the civic importance and heritage significance the Supreme Court of Victoria represents – within its sites but also within the legal precinct and within the city of Melbourne as a keystone of civic infrastructure and as an interconnected campus.”

Kerstin Thompson Architects’ team also includes director of projects Kelley Mackay, senior associate Toby Pond, and associate Michael Blancato.

Source: Architecture - architectureau

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