Sutter County Courthouse

Architect: RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture

Location: Yuba City, California

Through a strategic balancing act, the design of this project successfully optimizes courthouse operations while creating a powerful and dignified civic symbol for the Sutter County Courts.

This project forms the centerpiece of Yuba City's newly developing civic center neighborhood. The design is based on simple, cross-shaped building plan that efficiently achieves three critical goals:

It provides four strong elevations in a neighborhood context that has no "front" or "back" sides, giving the courthouse a commanding regional presence. It creates four intimate courtyards, spatial amenities for both staff and the visiting public. Finally, it evokes the shape and civic presence of Yuba City's historic courthouse, the building which the court is moving out of.

The limited palette of exterior materials includes a perimeter skin of dark textured porcelain tile, contrasted by a bright and crisp, smooth plaster at the courtyards. These courtyards appear "carved" out of the solid porcelain surround. The subtractive courtyard spaces mitigate the hot climate of California's Central Valley, along with the strategic building orientation, a self-shading building form, and carefully placed overhangs and shading devices.

Throughout the project, landscaping provides a primary focus, softening the presence of the "building as object," and shifting the focus to the social and operational spaces that the building affords.

Jury comments

The use of diagrams and the story they told were important for this project. We noted its civic presence and shift from a serious exterior to a more relaxed public space and interior, especially the informality of the courtyard.

Additional information

Acoustical/AV Consultants: Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc.

Construction Management: Kitchell

Cost Estimator: AECOM (formerly Davis Langdon)

Elevator Consultants: Syska & Hennesey Group

Engineer - Civil: Northstar Engineers

Engineer - MEP: WSP Group (formerly Flack + Kurtz)

Engineer -Structural: Rutherford & Chekene

Fire Safety: FireWise Consulting Ltd., Jenson Hughes (formerly Rolf Jensen & Associates / Hughes Associates), Sacramento Engineering Consultants, The Fire Consultants

General Contractor: Swinerton Builders

Geotechnical Engineer: Langan Treadwell Rollo (formerly Treadwell & Rollo)

Landscape Architect: GLS Landscape

Owner Representative: Capital Program | Operations & Programs Division, Judicial Council of California

Security Consultants: Guidepost Solutions (formerly Safir Rosetti)

Signage & Way-finding Designers: Square Peg Design

Sustainability Consultant: Simon & Associates

Waterproofing Consultants: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger


2016 Justice Facilities Review Jury

Mark Ryan, AIA (Chair), Mark Ryan Studio, Phoenix, Arizona

Patti Rhee, AIA, Ehrlich Architects, Culver City, California

Kathy Griffin, St. Joseph County, Centreville, Michigan

Dan Rowe, AIA, Treanor Architects, Kansas City, Missouri

Joe Waters, Johnson County Manager's Office, Olathe, Kansas

Brian Meade, AIA, Dewberry, Elgin, Illinois

Chief Larry Rodriguez, Tolleson Police Department, Tolleson, Arizona

Image credits

Sutter County Courthouse

Matthew Millman Photography

Sutter County Courthouse

RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture

Sutter County Courthouse

RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture

Sutter County Courthouse

Matthew Millman Photography