Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse

Portland, OR, USA General Services Administration Boora, Architect-of-Record Government, Interiors 602,000 ft2 / 56,000 m2 GSA Design Excellence Awards, Citation (1996), AIA New York Chapter Certificate of Recognition for a New Courthouse in Historic District (1997)

The 16-story Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse occupies an entire city block adjoining a public park. Fulfilling the diverse functional requirements prescribed by the General Services Administration’s Federal Courts Program, the facility the facility’s design is informed by two dominant programmatic elements: the courts and the agencies that serve them. Within a 300-foot (91-meter) vertical height limit on the site, the architects created a single structure that efficiently serves both the judicial and bureaucratic functions. Each of the functional components is given a specific representation within the varying formal components of the overall design. The tower volume, for example, houses two courtrooms, judges’ chambers, and a public gallery at each floor; the tower core contains secure elevators for prisoner circulation and restricted judges’ elevators.

The dialogue between light and heavy forms dictates the expression of these functions on the building’s exterior. The courtroom zone is given the appearance of weight, conveyed through a facade of Indiana limestone punctuated by narrow lateral openings. Small square windows above sponsor light scoops, trapezoidal volumes spanning across the upper zone of the restricted corridors to bring natural light into the courtrooms. In contrast, the judges’ chambers and public circulation galleries are made light with a horizontally articulated curtain wall of reflective and transparent glass.

The lower portion houses administrative functions, and a nine-story limestone facade on the south and west mediates between the scale of the monumental tower shaft and the lower buildings facing the park blocks. The west façade with the public galleries opens toward the park. The curved elevator tower acts as a campanile to pin the northwest corner of the park, and the courts tower is capped by a curved metal roof on the other side that gestures to the Willamette River. On the east façade, functions are arranged to take advantage of the magnificent views of Mount Hood in the distance.

Image 1 / 7 | © Timothy Hursley