‘Space’ and ‘Judiciary’.
What do we understand by these terms is how we perceive them, subconsciously. Our perception alters our experience of space, especially a judicial one. Judiciary is directly related to a sense of law and justice. If it disconcerts this sovereign sense, it transforms into a space for rebellion. Even though our experiences prove irreconcilable to the purpose of the structure, architecture has the power to condense it onto a conceptual scale. Winston Churchill has famously quoted once, ‘We shape our buildings and, afterwards our buildings shape us.’
So, how do we shape our spaces for the judiciary without undermining the very notion of law and justice, exorbitantly?
There are various folds of judicial structure, which include courthouses like:
- The Supreme court
- High court
- District / Subordinate courts
- Consumer court
- Army court
- Family court
- International court
And other structures like Embassy, Human rights bureau, and judicial academies. Several theoretical works have been conducted on courthouses and a few on embassies, yet there’s a scope for a lot of research on the rest of the judicial spaces.
Amongst these bunch of judicial spaces, courthouses, synecdoches the judiciary system and is abstracted as the gradual resolution of intangible justice to a tangible one. Courts are intricate spaces. They require separate sections and dissemination arrangements of judges, inmates, general society, and now and again juries.
With a plethora of attention given to the ambience of courthouses, the spatial arrangement often goes unnoticed yet formulating its influence on users.
The Palais de Justice in Brussels is as colossal as it appears, rendering a thin seam between power and law enforcement. Its grandeur regards it as-built ‘of 10 million human skulls, a vast mountain of remains caulked together with crusted blood and rubber.’
Despite this terror and expressions, its inside is reflected as ‘over seven hundred thousand cubic meters contain[ing] corridors and stairways leading nowhere, and doorless rooms and halls where no one would ever set foot, empty spaces surrounded by walls and representing the innermost secret of all sanctioned authority’ (Wilkinson, 2018).
Disapproving the prerogatives publicised by the traditional perceptions of justice and architectural brace to the same, Renzo Piano has enhanced the Paris skyline with the audacious Tribunal de Paris. The building though gargantuan, in contrast with The Palais de Justice, reflects equity and power through its built. Piano in an interview stated, ‘Justice has changed enormously these past 100years, but [courthouses] have remained the same.’ The glass cladding, steel engineering, boxed, and securitised arrangements for the defendants preach a different story than expected. Despite all the grandness and hypothesis put into the designing, it was convicted by the very users and labelled as blatant and forcibly eliminating communication with one another.
‘Architecturally the emphasis throughout history has been on the aesthetic experience or mental associations that the built environment evokes rather than on the evocation of behaviour, with the image rather than the result’ (Mercer, 1975).
Architecture being perceived as art and scrutinised thoroughly is plausible. However, there exist a few foxholes that lead to the potentially nearest presumed reality.
In tuning from the rudimentary experiences of non-frequent users, courts tend to be an uncomfortable and unsafe place.
Court design differs from rest architectural duties since court clients and those working within the judicial framework may not have similar plan targets. Courts are maybe the most isolating and isolated open structures in contemporary urban areas.
A definitive objective is to make a safe and harmonious state for all members by studying the individual psychic impacts of structure on the diverse clients.
(Eg: The staff contrives different issues in comparison to prosecutors or police and thus have different aims from the space to offer them.)
Entering a court building can be stressful for some clients. Individuals in a state of confusion while entering a new court building will likely be unable to take in signs, directions, or cautions. Studies have revealed, a withdrawal space attached to the chambers of jurors or judges can reduce their strain considerably. Similarly, separation is a must for the protection of vulnerable witnesses from abusers.
Generally, waiting areas are situated right next to the courtroom for the convenience of the court hearings. Opposing parties are likely to come in contact with each other in these spaces. It can prove to be a positive transitional space or hostile/ violent; hence careful thought must be given to their design.
On the other hand, embassies are an explicit model of the country it represents. It is parallel to power and justice concerning its design than the functionality. Unlike law courts or police stations, the embassy represents a ‘soft’ judicial framework rather than ‘hard’ one. How to express this ‘soft’ notion is instead the challenge.
The underlined reality lies in the representation of the physical nature of the country without imposing an intractable image or decrying the host nation. Users comprehend this space on the base of their purposeful visit. A sense of respect, privacy, and security must be felt by the users broadly, this can be achieved by transforming the planning, landscaping, interiors, and majorly approach to the site effectively.
The U.S embassy designed by Kieran Timberlake is one of the striking examples. The sense of timelessness is conveyed through a cube form and by creating an intruded garden at levels.
Thus, space to ‘exist’ and ‘believe’ what the architecture wants us to is an abstract element for any judicial structure. A well-thought design may help in communicating the serene accessibility of justice and safety efficiently. If a judicial space fails to communicate these convictions, being genuinely angry is not a bad thing, at all.
- (Wilkinson, T. . Typology: Law Court. Architectural Review)
- (Mercer, C. . Living in the cities: Psychology and the Urban Environment).