June 2014

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Thunder Bay Consolidated Courthouse by Yvan Marston IMAGES COURTESY ADAMSON ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS M ost of the time, we convene in courtrooms to mend con- flict. But Thunder Bay's new courthouse may bring a new approach to the work being done in these spaces: one that is more healing than conflict resolution. That's not to say this isn't a best-in- class justice facility. And its consolida- tion of the region's superior court and provincial court is an exercise in long- term efficiency. "A consolidated courthouse brings those courts together, and by doing so you get reduced operational costs, more effective use of resources, scheduling and co-ordination, as well as ease of public access," says Angelo Gismondi, VP of project delivery for Infrastructure Ontario, the agency responsible for four other courthouse consolidation projects throughout the province. Fully operational in April 2014, the new 255,000-square-foot courthouse features a high-security courtroom for multiple accused and another sizeable adjudication space that can handle large jury trials. That's in addition to the 13 other courtrooms housed in this six-storey glass and precast structure located between Brodie and Archibald streets, in the city's downtown south core. Its courtrooms are all barrier-free, wired for the latest technology and fitted with millwork that is reconfigu- rable at a moment's notice. But what sets this courthouse apart is its conference rooms – and one in particular. Even f rom out side t he ma in entrance, standing on the granite- paved 1,200-square-foot plaza looking into the glazed atrium, you'll notice an intriguing beehive shape staking its claim to the least side of the build- ing. That's the Aboriginal Conference/ Settlement Room ( ACSR). Clad inside and out with four-inch- wide white maple battens, the ACSR, evoking a roundhouse, is an Ontario first: a hearing room inspired by the aboriginal notion of restorative justice, where every- one takes ownership of an issue when a matter is being investigated. All the key players – the accused, the victim, social workers, families and leaders – congregate in this single-level room where a circle of millwork surrounds a stone hearth. The hearth's centre will be used for smudging ceremonies before the start of proceedings. Ministry of the Attorney General architect Wei Chiao sees this space as one of the building's key architectural and cultural elements. "It's saying: Let's take a step to collaborate on all the issues that we face. And here's an environment that is more conducive to dealing with dispute," he explains. It is a space intended to be used not only for adjudication but also for community functions, explains Claudina Sula, Adamson Associates Architects' partner in charge of the project. The design-build-finance-maintain project was undertaken by the Plenary Justice Thunder Bay consortium, which includes Bird Design-Build Construction, and as part of its team Adamson Associates Architects and Johnson Controls. From the main entrance, the ACSR acts as a bold statement in an otherwise open and intuitive public space. To the right are the public counters and court services and ahead, users can move to the elevator core to access courtrooms and office areas on the upper floors. A large portion of the tower's north side is clad in a mix of vision glass and span- drel glass, but on the south side, where the private circulation corridors run, the design calls for more discretion while allowing for natural light. Here, the facade is a combination of metal panels and vision glass. The deep brown precast concrete panels that clad much of the podium as well as the tower's east side draw inspi- ration from the region's dark earth, while the strong vertical pattern formed by the south side's glass and metal mix- ture is meant to evoke a waterfall (a nod to the area's Kakabeka Falls). All this glazing allows the building to harvest daylight throughout its spaces (every courtroom has some level of natural light – much of it is "borrowed" through the use of clerestories) and makes it easy for the public to navigate. The large central atrium is a key part of the complex's intuitive way-finding strategy. "All the major public spaces are direc t ly accessible f rom t his atrium," explains Sula. "We organized the building so that the main means june 2014 /75 Thunder Bay Consolidated Courthouse p.74-77ThunderBay Courthouse.indd 75 14-06-03 10:17 AM

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