Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse

New York, NY, USA BPT Properties Foley Square, LP Government, Heritage + Historic, Interiors 921,000 ft2 / 86,000 m2 GSA Design Excellence Awards (1996)

Opening onto Foley Square in lower Manhattan, this 27-story Federal courthouse is located adjacent to Guy Lowell's Municipal Courthouse of 1926 and across from Cass Gilbert's U.S. Courthouse tower of 1936. The building’s nine-story base, which matches the height of Lowell Courthouse, houses two lobbies linked by a gallery, a jury selection room, 200,000 square feet of support space for the District and Circuit Courts and the U.S. Marshall's Service, cafeteria, auditorium, and a ceremonial court under a vaulted roof. The tower, which aligns with Gilbert's courthouse, contains 42 courtrooms and judge’s chambers.

The programmatic complexity of this project, particularly its diverse circulation requirements, was a powerful force in directing the overall design of the building. The separation of functions within the new courthouse allows for larger, more efficient and privatized facilities. The solution’s basic geometry is dictated by its internal biology. The four clustered courtrooms prescribed a particular shape and required access to three separate systems of circulation. The T-shaped site allowed two basic massings to emerge: the 27-story tower housing the courtrooms and chambers faces the Foley Square precinct, while the nine-story wing housing the support agencies faces the residential community.

Siting the building in the dense municipal fabric of Manhattan and the surrounding low-scale residential community of Chinatown, was one of the greatest challenges surrounding the project. These issues were resolved by taking cues from the rhythm of the existing, classically-styled civic structures and keeping the same datum lines and points of reference for the new structure. Similar material palettes were also utilized in order to blend the building into its environment. Recognized as one of the most successful new urban spaces in New York City, a pedestrian-scaled public plaza was created adjacent to the Lowell Courthouse that incorporates the Maya Lin sculpture, “Sounding Stones”.

Image 1 / 6 | © Jock Pottle