The Montgomery County Justice Center will bring generous civic spaces and dynamic contemporary architecture to the core of Norristown, Pennsylvania. The project, which encompasses an expanded and reimagined public square as well as the consolidation of the county’s court and administrative facilities into a single campus, creates a new symbol of government for Pennsylvania’s third most populous county and the economic engine of suburban Philadelphia.
In addition to creating a state-of-the-art facility that will serve the county’s needs for the next 100 years, the Justice Center enhances the vitality of downtown Norristown through signature public spaces and new links to the surrounding streets. The project, which includes the renovation of the existing courthouse as well as the construction of a 322,500-square-foot new building, turns an inward-facing complex into one that opens to the city and welcomes the public — embodying the county’s ideals and healing the scars of midcentury urban renewal.
Originally built in 1856, the neoclassical courthouse is a landmark in the center of Norristown. The project restores its historic features, modernizes its interiors, and makes its copper dome the focal point of the Justice Center campus. On the southern side of the site, the new building respects the architectural language and scale of its neighbor with a design that avoids formal excess and clearly delineates interior organization through the exterior massing. Its cladding is primarily glass fritted with a marble pattern, a contemporary take on the Pennsylvania “King of Prussia” Blue Marble quarried in Montgomery County and utilized in historic public buildings throughout the region.
Sustainability played a key role in all aspects of the design — from the expanded green spaces with native plantings to the fritted cladding — and the project is targeting LEED Gold certification. Despite doubling in square footage, the complex will halve its energy use, irrigation, and indoor water usage while increasing public green space by 40 percent.