As part of the initial planning sessions for Calaveras County's New San Andreas Courthouse, DLR Group helped define goals and key expectations rooted in the expression of the courthouse as a representation of democracy and a place of importance in the local community. The unique rural context, set among delicate oak woodlands and natural topography, was also a source of inspiration. A small archaeological site with Native American grinding stones links the parcel to an earlier time. This historical connection and views to the Sierra foothills beyond became an integral part of how the design team began to think about the building. In orientation, form, materials, and details the facility is a gesture toward this place and time, layered with elements of the past, and the dignity and honor associated with courthouses.
The base of this 44,644 SF building is symbolic of the natural surroundings. Mitigating the extreme grade changes, free flowing and organic but weighted and grounded in its materiality, the building base becomes the foundation from which the upper floors spring. The clerk of the court, jury assembly, and the court-support offices are housed on the first level. These components are the foundation and support network to the court system. The upper level of the building is ordered and balanced. Here the courtrooms are expressed in juxtaposition against the base. Just as the court system provides order and guidance to our changing society, this literal interpretation provides a resolution to the building massing. At the roof line the four courtroom volumes are expressed against a datum of metal which is symbolic of the mountains beyond as they rise above the horizon. DLR Group provided planning, programming, architecture, and building optimization services.