The Superior Court of California – San Diego consolidates San Diego County’s criminal trial, family, and civil courts into a 25-story downtown tower. In the spirit of civic buildings with a strong but accommodating presence, SOM’s design integrates this formal repertoire with a language of robust subtractive massing that encloses a secure and welcoming interior.
The courthouse comprises a tower and podium clad in precast concrete, as well as a public plaza. Located on a former brownfield at the intersection of Union and C Streets, the project is designed as a catalyst for an emerging government district.
The first three levels of the courthouse support the busiest functions of the criminal courts, which include arraignment courts, misdemeanor courts, offices, and jury assembly rooms. These functions are serviced by a cascading stair and escalator along a three-story lobby. The lobby connects with a vestibule and a raised entry plaza. A fritted glass curtain wall brings natural light into the corridor, which is articulated with wood mullions and wood benches.
On its exterior, the courthouse features a distinctive soffit at its crown. With shaped aluminum panel sections, the soffit shades the building during the morning hours. It also captures and dynamically reflects southern and western light back onto the underside of the structure’s surface. Both practical and symbolic, this luminous design feature celebrates the San Diego skyline.