Smoothly and calmly
Erected in 1885, Feldbach District Court is located in a typical small town environment set amidst 1960s residential housing, a playground, the old monastery by the park, a Joker casino and an inn, all of which form a characteristic backdrop to the building as a place of jurisdiction and arbitration. Originally equipped with a prison wing and a representative entrance portal, the complex was restructured in 1976 following the incorporation of several judicial districts.
After remodelling and extending the Court building to cope with a newly extended catchment area, the whole complex today appears in a more friendly and unobtrusive light. The original building's harmonious proportions clearly beneit from the renovated facade, which is now rendered in light beige to match the annexes; the roofs of the wings and the main front building appear high and slender. Reconstruction work involved extending the rear wing and refurbishing parts of the building complex. The cornices of the historical facade, which are displaced at the line where the old and new buildings meet, emphasize the horizontal distinctly. Additionally, the segmentation of the composite facade relief around the annex and its smaller extension seems to perpetuate the older building's cornices like a visual bracket. Shadow gaps determine the rhythm. As a result, it was possible, for instance, to retain the office windows in the annex at the same level without compromising the building's appearance, which everyone in the house appreciates.
The main entrance's present location on the rear and at the centre of the complex now offers administrative staff, judges and visitors the advantage of reaching all departments easily and swiftly instead of having to walk lengthy distances, as before. One of the judges remarked that the building should communicate the 'gravity of the situation' to disputing parties. A long, broadly visible access ramp leading to the entrance area and security gates endeavour to meet that requirement.
Architects Ederer + Haghirian were able to sustainably enhance the daily worklow at Court merely by making a few adjustments to the procedural organisation and converting two courtrooms. The offices of the six judges, including the court registry, archives and a staff room are accommodated in the annex. Safety measures are positioned visibly or integrated in the architecture in order to respond quickly to emergencies. Fire extinguishers are not fitted directly to the wall, but mounted on red floor-to-ceiling timber panels. One of the converted courtrooms is furnished with soundproof wall panels that help to ensure that proceedings run quite 'smoothly and calmly' no matter how emotional the session may be. Heavy white tables that conceal the legs of those seated convey reserve and create privacy. Moreover, sandblasted glazing obscures the view into the courtroom.
In the stairwell, parts of the old banisters were preserved and equipped with a new wooden handrail - a smart decision that has reined the entire area. Moreover, an elevator was installed to provide barrierfree access. Alongside, six steps connect the slightly different levels of the old and new building. The end of a gloomy corridor between the offices in the annex was opened up and glazed to let more light in. Another wise decision was to place the wood-panelled service centre for visitors in the entrance area, where it is clearly visible. Those in search of aesthetics will ind it on a rather clever downto-earth level. It is especially worth mentioning that the whole project was subject to a tight budget and strict time frame. The rules of the Court - a long list of prohibited items and activities (no fluids, no weapons or weapon-like objects, no animals, no smoking, no photos, videos or audios, no mummery or veiling, no helmets, but prepare to have your bag searched) - give us an indication of the actual scope of requirements the architects needed to fulfill. It seems as if there is a lot going on in this building: Forty-thousand files per year, four-thousand people at hearings - and at least every fourth person from this district is said to have already set foot in the place. As a District Court, this complex is bound to be a busy venue all the year round, and yet, its architecture makes a completely different impression since the latest conversion. Today, an atmosphere of friendly sobriety prevails in place of the building's previously rather daunting character.
- Claudia Gerhausser