Shepparton Law Courts officially opens

The new $73 million Shepparton Law Courts was officially opened on Friday 18 March by The Honourable Martin Pakula MP, Attorney-General, in the presence of the Chief Magistrate, His Honour Judge Peter Lauritsen.

The new Shepparton Law Courts Building celebrates the civic importance and roles public buildings played in regional town centres. Located on the corner of High and Wyndham Streets, it creates a complete Justice Precinct, with the Police Station to the west and the 1930's heritage Supreme Court building in the centre.

The design of the Shepparton Law Courts draws on its regional setting. Image : Scott Burrows Photographer

The 5-storey building features six main courtrooms with the capacity to vary their use to meet caseload requirements, and also provides dedicated courtrooms for higher jurisdictions complete with a jury box, custody dock and space to accommodate up to three judges.

Architectus Director and lead designer behind the project, Mark Wilde, says utmost importance was placed on making the courts a welcoming environment, especially given many people within will be going through trying circumstances.

As a result, Shepparton’s famous Red River Gumtree was used as an inspiration behind the entrance lobby design, with timber used as a primary material, coupled with curved ceilings and perforated light throughout. The air-conditioning has even been programmed to feel like a natural breeze.

Using as much natural light as possible was also a key consideration in the design given the importance placed on this in modern law court design, with clear triple glazed windows, translucent glass, sunscreens and variable blinds that wrap around the courts and public waiting halls, providing a connection to the outside environment, as well as a sense of time and respite.

Architectus began the design process with three guiding principles, solidified by the local community in Shepparton: natural light, reference to the famous Red River Gum, and use of natural materials and brick work that linked to other local buildings in the area.

The design was centred around these core elements throughout the entire planning and consultation process with the local community, and the overall look and feel of the building reflects this.

The design of Shepparton Law Courts also brings together a number of key learnings and successes from Architectus' previous law court projects. One such example is the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law in Brisbane which took a radical departure from traditional court design by exhibiting a high level of transparency and lightness.

This core element was critical to the design of Shepparton Law Courts, with natural light weaved throughout the building.

Architectus' design weaves light throughout the interiors of the building. Image: Scott Burrows Photographer

First and foremost, a court building needs to be a welcoming facility. Courts can be a stressful place for people so our focus is to design court buildings which are sensitive and supportive of all its occupants. To bring a sense of calmness to Shepparton Law Courts, we used the region’s ancient River Red Gum trees as a reference throughout the design.

The ancient tree has a distorted root system that anchors it to the ground and filters perforated sunlight through its canopy. This image was the starting point for the ideas that informed the design of the welcoming entry lobby at the Shepparton Law Courts.

As a result, the lobby’s design gives the illusion of being beneath a leafy tree, with timber used as a primary material, coupled with curved ceilings and perforated light throughout. The air-conditioning has even been programed to feel like a natural breeze.

Natural lighting was also a key consideration given the importance placed on this in recent law court design. Allowing daylight to enter a space provides a connection to the outside environment and gives those within a sense of time and respite. To achieve consistent light throughout the building, we landed on a two-courts-per-floor design, which eliminated the traditional long corridors and provided a seamless connection between the forecourt, lobby, and court rooms.

The design’s delicate arrangement of clear triple glazed windows, translucent glass, sunscreens and variable blinds that wrap around the courts and public waiting halls are a response to our desire to convey openness and transparency, while also maintaining sophisticated controls for security and privacy.

- Mark Wilde, Director, Architectus

The new Shepparton Law Courts will open to the public on Tuesday 3 April, with the commencement of court sittings. Stage Two works, which include demolition of the old 1980's building, development of a new landscaped forecourt and completion of the main building facade, and the refurbishment of the 1930s courthouse into a Specialist Family Violence Court, is scheduled for completion in late 2018.

The lobby of the Shepparton Law Courts feature warm timbers reminiscent of ancient river red gums. Image: Scott Burrows Photographer

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