Barcelona’s new law courts complex breaks down the 240,000 square meter program into nine buildings, four of which are linked by a continuous four-storey-high concourse structure. The first of the buildings was completed in September 2007. Previously, the various legal departments of the governments of Barcelona and l’Hospitalet were scattered in seventeen buildings across the two cities, with functional frustrations for both users and employees. The new combined City of Justice aimed to improve efficiency and allow working spaces to adapt and absorb the constant transformation of the judicial body as well as provide space for future growth.
The site – previously a military barracks – is at the border of the two cities of Barcelona and l’Hospitalet. It is located adjacent to both the Avinguda de la Granvia de l’Hospitalet, a major access route into the center of Barcelona from the south, and the Avinguda del Carrilet, an arterial road leading to l’Hospitalet. The position provides optimum accessibility to the city and major metropolitan routes on both public and private transport. The principal proposition of the project divides the extensive program into a series of separate but interrelated blocks on a public plaza – a spatial composition that attempts to break the rigid and monolithic image of justice. The project also attempts to balance the relationships between the different working areas, public areas, and landscape. Situated around the perimeter of the linking concourse is a group of four judicial buildings, characterized by ground-floor courtrooms and offices on the floors above. Each is accessed directly from the concourse building, which not only acts as a filter but also gathers people at the start and completion of their visit within a central public room overlooking the exterior plaza.
From its elevations, the architecture does not reveal the programmatic differences within, presenting a robust and coherent face to the eclectic surrounding environment.
Independent of this interconnected complex are four other structures: a judicial services building for l’Hospitalet, a forensic sciences building and two commercial buildings with ground-floor retail facilities. A further building is planned to contain social housing. All nine are conceived as formally restrained blocks with load-bearing in-situ concrete ‘cage’ façades, creating an imposing physical presence. Each has a contrasting, although muted, color tone. Vertical windows are set back from the front surface and designed in such a way as to allow easy access by the fire department in the case of an emergency. In contrast to the nine blocks, the concourse structure is black and white and has a more free-form plan. Its external walls are mostly glass, with woven mesh screens in front of frameless glazing serving both to filter the light and improve security.