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.
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.