With an abundance of glass drawing natural light deep into the building, the design of the new Gull Road Family Justice Complex in Kalamazoo, Michigan, provides an efficient, comfortable environment for families and staff.
Designed by HOK and TowerPinkster, the three-story, 81,200-sq.-ft. justice facility improves operational efficiencies and security while maximizing flexibility to accommodate future needs. The new complex consolidates all family court functions for the county and outside agencies into one facility, uniting juvenile functions, domestic relations, probate, prosecuting attorneys, clerks and family support services.
The design takes advantage of a steep ridge running through the center of the 7.3-acre site, creating two levels of courts facing Gull Road and three levels of offices and support services along the rear of the facility. A two-story, curved blue insulated glass curtain wall stretches the length of the public corridors and accentuates the building’s openness and transparency. The use of bricks with punched openings blends the design with a nearby residential community and an adjacent juvenile home.
Abundant natural light floods the interior, providing a comfortable, inviting environment for visitors. All public, staff and judicial circulation areas are lined with windows, while clerestory and interior windows extend daylight into the courtrooms, hearing rooms, offices and conference rooms. An open staircase provides convenient access to all three floors.
A dynamic canopied entry supported by slender columns opens to a dramatic two-story lobby on the middle level. Visitors are guided through security screening to electronic monitors providing directory and docket information. For ease of access and staffing efficiencies, all public counter areas are clearly marked and located around a single public waiting and work area.
Six hearing rooms are provided on this level. The upper floor houses four courtrooms, a jury deliberation area and the prosecuting attorney’s office. The lower level contains family court intake services, a common staff entry and break room, and the secure connection to the juvenile facility. To optimize use of county resources and improve collaboration, courthouse staff share a secure entry and a common kitchen and meeting space on the lower level. Discrete holding areas are provided for both juvenile and adult in-custody defendants. Separate circulation is provided for the public, judges and staff, and in-custody transfer with a secure passageway that connects to the adjacent juvenile facility.
All areas of the courthouse, including the courtrooms and staff areas, are fully accessible. Courtrooms and hearing rooms are equipped with advanced court technology systems that integrate audiovideo recording, videoconferencing, evidence presentation technology and sound reinforcement. This system eliminates the need for court reporters in the courtrooms. Electronic court monitors are also located in the lobby—after security screening and outside the courtrooms.
HOK led the facility programming, court planning and design for the $20.1 million facility. TowerPinkster managed the project and served as architect of record and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineer. The project was completed on time and under budget.