Dennis Maes Pueblo Judicial Center
Architect: DLR Group
Location: Pueblo, Colorado
This courthouse is designed to celebrate the local history of Pueblo, Colorado, while also focusing on energy savings and bringing daylight into the traditionally dark courtroom.
The development of the architecture for the Dennis Maes Pueblo Judicial Building proceeded along two aims. First, to create architecture that celebrates the idea of being a citizen of Pueblo County, Colorado, and ties the building not only to its place in time but to the layers of history and culture unique to Pueblo. Second, to recognize in the architectural expression the dignity and honor appropriate to a courthouse, allowing the function of the building to speak on its own.
With these ends in mind, the design team delved deeply into ideas of regional materials, imagery, and culture. Being a courthouse, though, required reconciliation of these ideas to an abstraction of the language of classical architecture: that of a vertical vocabulary organized in the classical formula of base, middle, and top. The clarity of the elevations calls attention to the seriousness of what this building represents, connecting it to the long line of classical civic architecture which has gone before and setting it apart from the more superficial aspects of our day-to-day commercial architecture.
The rotunda is the centerpiece of this facility, acknowledging the kiva form of the Pueblo Indian culture as a unique precedent, and plays an important part in the building’s exterior expression as well as its interior organization. Once visitors pass security screening they enter this multi-story space with ample room for gathering before accessing the upper levels of the courthouse. Electronic docket monitors on display in the rotunda direct visitors to the appropriate floor. Potential jurors access the jury assembly room off of the rotunda. A monumental stair leads from the rotunda to the second floor. The upper floors of the courthouse use the rotunda as a referential space providing daylight and views to the city beyond.
The use of metaphor and the overall facility planning captured the jury’s attention. The kiva/rotunda was clearly the aspect of the project that stood out in both idea and execution—it is the true heart of this project.