Courts of justice, Paris

Client Name:- The District Courts of Paris / EPPJP

Location:- Tolbiac du Sud, diagonally opp. the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (National Library of France)

Total Build-Up Area:- 20,00,000 sq.ft

Type of Project:- Architecture and Master-Planning

Status:- Design Competition (2005)

The proposed site had a remarkable factory building (now in disuse) by the French pioneer of pre-stressed concrete Eugène Freyssinet.The competition organizers sought a design for a new district court for the city of Paris (called TGI or Tribunal de Grand Instance in French). The existing factory had to be retained and reused in some manner if possible.

Waiting halls for visitors, a court administrative secretariat, court chambers, judges’ offices and holding rooms for under-trials were the main components of the brief.

Our proposal saw the site as a rare opportunity to celebrate the 3 principles of the French Republic – liberty, equality and fraternity. The issues of public order, transparency, security and safety also had to be dealt with.

We largely retained the Freyssinet hall converting it into the administrative secretariat and the hall for visitors, its tall repeating barrel roofs very suitable for this retrofit function. A new wing was wrapped around the hall like a ribbon on two sides, a part of which became the holding cells for under-trials with its own dedicated access, and the most celebrated part facing the road overlooking the Siene river became the Chambers of justicee, with shimmering panels of blue, white and red glass (the colours of the French flag) – filtering in lights of those colours into the court-rooms.

The Judges’ chambers stood like a beacon of justicee, slightly aloof in a tower of their own, looking down upon the Court premises and to the National Library diagonally opposite across the road.

Since the site cut across right in-between an old residential neighbourhood and a new proposed Housing project, a pedestrian bridge that would fly over and through site was proposed, allowing access between the old parts of the neighbourhood and new, while ensuring that the security of the court premises was not compromised.

The jury was chaired by Massimiliano Fuksas and the first prize was awarded to Josep Fuses andJoan M. Viader, Spain.