This project by Heery International, architects won a 2014 Award of Merit from the AIAOrlando chapter by an independent jury selection. The new courthouse expansion in Tavares, Florida serves as the keystone for a complex of buildings and open spaces for a four-block County government campus. The courthouse project was the last in the multi-phase masterplan design which aspired to form a gateway to the downtown district, provide unification of an eclectic government campus spanning four city blocks, and provide the downtown core with a rich group of buildings that move the city and county into the future and serve the community well.
By reorienting the existing judicial building, the new expansion addresses Main Street with a linear public plaza, providing an ordered setting and formal processional. This campus spans both sides of the downtown thoroughfare stitching together a grand government campus. Design inspiration for the courthouse, in part, came from the County’s assemblage of public buildings including the 1922 Historic Courthouse, the circular-atriumed Courts Annex, the current Judicial Building and the County Criminal Justice facility. In keeping with this very diverse 20th-century context, the new courthouse is transitional in its planar architecture of brick, glass, and metal, yet clearly expressive of today. The material color palette and vocabulary of the existing campus are translated into an architectural language that blends and unifies the buildings together. Along Main Street, the southern facade reveals the civic purpose of the courthouse with vertical fenestration flanked by “column-like” elements that reveal the court floor public galleries beyond. This prominent elevation evokes references to the opposing Historic Courthouse with its masonry arcaded base, columnar expression and metallic sunscreen cornice. Sunlight-filled public spaces and courtrooms symbolize the openness and impartiality represented by our process of law and humanize the setting for visitors, judges, and staff.
The courthouse is simply organized: middle floor public spaces facing Main Street serving 6 courtrooms; judicial chambers on the upper floor and clerk functions on the lower two floors. The existing justice building was renovated to house existing 8 courts/chambers, State Attorney and Public Defender offices. These components are stitched together by the five-story, precast-concrete and glass atrium “tower” which becomes a referential space between the new and existing buildings.
The floors are designed around a 4-court per floor arrangement. Pairs of courtrooms flank holding cell components which are served from a central holding area on the second floor. The fifth floor, which houses the judicial chambers, has a floor-to-floor height which will accommodate additional courtrooms in the future when the judicial chambers are moved into a flanking office wing.
You can learn more about Heery International and this project on their website at this link: