Entrance to the Pretoria Magistrates Court

Magistrates Court Buildings have a very specific brief as regards norms and standards generated by the DPW. Spatially they are complex in terms of their circulation – requiring separation between the public, officials and prisoners for security reasons. Thus the spatial configuration of courts with added office and storage requirements means that they are by necessity are ‘deep space’ buildings. The challenge within this is to find the opportunities within these constraints for making special places. Courts are about people – people who usually spend a lot of time waiting (usually in intimidating red brick DPW buildings). Thus throughout the project, special consideration was given to the public spaces by creating outdoor courtyards, well naturally lit waiting areas, a children’s play area and easily legible circulation spaces, which would give relief to this. The ‘diagram’ of the building suggested that the junction between the existing building and the new should be a large open courtyard into which a ramp and staircase is inserted, forming the new entrance into the building. The courtyard was closed on the north side by a double storey entrance building with the childrens court above.

The new Criminal and Regional Courtrooms located in the new section of the building on the first floor are planned off a central public concourse, conceptually a circulation ‘street’, linked to the courtyard from the ramp and staircase. It is generously wide, top lit, and the space where people sit and wait for the court. Courtyards are also used to puncture the deep space of the building bringing light and spatial and long circulation concourse at ground level. Externally the building uses robust materials – a light coloured facebrick, natural quartz tile cladding, which were chosen for long term maintenance requirements.