Edit: The new Brisbane court complex is now open. I happily admit that it looks great from some angles.
Today's Herald-Sun carries a contribution by Marilyn Warren to the paper's current Make Melbourne Better campaign.
The article is an economical work of recycling by the Chief Justice. It's extracted from a much longer address made by her Honour to the Third Justice Environments Conference at the University of Western Sydney last year. The full speech can be found here. Both are further steps in the delicate dance by the judiciary to get the other branches of government to loosen their purse strings and furnish the Supreme Court with a new home, or update their existing one.
Both pieces challenge the traditional presumption that court buildings should instil fear and trepidation in those who pass through their doors. They invite building designers (and those who fund them) to further develop a new style of architecture for government buildings that is both inclusive and Australian.
The Chief Justice makes reference with approval to a number of recent court buildings, including the Adelaide and Melbourne Federal Courts, Melbourne's County Court and the Parramatta Courts Precinct in Sydney.
She singles out for particular praise the Brisbane Supreme & District Courts currently under construction. It's due for completion by the end of the year but will probably be delayed now, given the floods. Here's the artist's impression:
This is referred to as, 'a sophisticated layered façade and a truly beautiful building internally and externally'. I don't wish to be unkind but from the sketches it looks to me like a modern glass box with a predictable IKEA interior.
Preliminary sketches for a new Victorian Supreme Court building have already been done by architects Billard Leece. While there are no external designs on their website (hard to do until a site has been confirmed) the internal drawings suggest that at least some rooms won't be converted to plastic and pressed balsa wood but will retain their classic appearance:
There was no reference by the Chief Justice to the UK Supreme Court. When the House of Lords closed up shop the Law Lords relocated to Middlesex Guildhall, where the former council chamber was converted to the main courtroom:
It's obvious that Gothic revival isn't in keeping with the Chief Justice's desire for a building that is 'open and full of light', but I like it. (But then I don't know anything about architecture except what I see on Grand Designs).
Edit: Here's a couple of pics of the Supreme Court of Singapore, built in 2005:
If I worked there I would always be waiting for a hatch to pop open on the flying saucer and all the people who were abducted to come stumbling out. Not sure I like the design, but at least it's original.
I'm interested to hear how people think a modern court building should look. What do you think?