Hollister Courthouse Receives Rejuvenating Facelift

Contributor: Swinerton Blogger   |   June 25, 2015
Hollister Courthouse Receives Rejuvenating Facelift

In 2010, the Superior Court of California, County of San Benito, was operating in an aging, mid-century, county building located in downtown Hollister, California. The facility was inadequate for the Court’s needs, primarily because their building was antiquated, and the courtrooms were undersized and inappropriately planned for current courtroom security practices. 

The goal for the new Hollister Courthouse, completed in 2013, was to provide a modern courtroom facility with multi-functional courtrooms to support civil, family, criminal, probate, and juvenile calendars. The new building is intended to function equally well as a setting for the delivery of justice, a public services center, a community landmark, and a statement of the community’s heritage.

The building program included a two-story, 41,500-square-foot facility comprised of three courtrooms, court support functions, jury assembly space, and in-custody holding. While Kitchell Contractors, Inc. was the construction manager at risk, Swinerton Management & Consulting provided project management for the administrative office of the Courts.

Architect Smith Group JJR  set out to create a clear modern building with elements derived from the physical setting and climate—combined with the urban organization and scale of the community, function of open justice, and interpretation of classical courthouse elements of the colonnade, roof canopy, town square, rational order, and monumentality. Natural daylight and indoor/outdoor connections were primary objectives for the building design. One of the focal visual features is a cantilevered glass canopy that wraps around three sides of the main public face of the structure. The glass canopy is cantilevered out 25 feet from the face of the building, totaling 300 feet long. Made from a new self-cleaning glass, the canopy is etched with leaf patterns to create a play between light and shadow, serving as a visual marker of the progression of the day.

The original design included a back-span of the cantilever to offset the moment arm of the overhanging structure. The project team determined that with such a long span to the cantilever, it would be difficult to assure that the leading edge of each beam would be in alignment at the furthest point of the overhang. The design team worked with the owner and Kitchell to devise a revision to the structural design that allowed the cantilever to be supported by a bolted connection at the building face, in lieu of a backspan. This allowed adjustments to be made to individual cantilevered beams through the use of steel shims at the bolted connection. In addition to the bolted connections, a welded perimeter channel at the longest point of the cantilever assured that the individual beams were acting in unison at the leading edge. Prior to installation of the welded perimeter channel, the bolted connection did not account for the movement caused by temperature differential as the beams heated at different rates depending on their exposure to the sun. A portion of the full-scale assembly was constructed as a mock- up to test the uniformity of the structure with the revised details.

The design of the new courthouse takes inspiration from architectural and historical context of the City of Hollister, as well as a reinterpretation of classic courthouse vocabulary. Hollister is an agricultural community with many historical architectural styles. The building design extracts the essence of this history through an emphasis on craftsmanship and texture. The use of local materials in their raw along with elemental forms alludes to the community’s past, while establishing a contemporary architectural vernacular. The deconstruction and reinterpretation of classic elements like the colonnade, canopy, and plaza, further develop this vocabulary, creating a strong sense of civic place.