The Search for a Modern Monumentality: Master Plan and Design for the New Paris Courthouse

The subject of this studio will be the master plan and design of the new Paris Courthouse at the center of the city. In this complex project, one of the current Grands Projets of Paris, the investigation will examine the intersection of civic architecture, infrastructure, urban development, and urban landscape. The project offers a unique vehicle to explore the question of modern monumentality. Site and ProgramSince 2004, the need for a new Paris Courthouse, essential to the modernization of the justice system in the French capital, has been identified and sites evaluated. The site selected, in a city where available real estate is so scarce, is in the heart of the mixed-use development zone on the Left Bank of Paris. It lies between the new Bibliotheque Nationale on the Seine, and an urban precinct undergoing rapid change, the 13th Arrondissement. It is adjacent to the railroad tracks leaving Gare Austerlitz, and is occupied presently by a large industrial hall built by the engineer Eugene Freyssinet in the early 20th century, thought by many to be an historically important structure worthy of preservation. A major avenue at deck level over the tracks will be the main point of access for the courthouse. The site is subject to both community pressures for neighborhood development and amenities and the desire for an optimal configuration for a major new courthouse, national symbol, and new seat of the justice system. The City of Paris has already prepared several studies for the development of mixed-use housing, offices, schools, and recreation/park spaces. Our program will be based on a current competition brief for mixed use including 1.2 million square feet for the courthouse, 1million square feet for housing and related amenities, and 200,000 square feet of park and plaza. The goal of the brief is to create an authentic contemporary monument which will be worthy of the capital and give fresh expression to the values of the justice system. While we will not enter the competition (due on October 16th), we will offer the combined results of our analysis, master planning, and building design to the Ministry of Justice upon completion of the studio.The studio subject will provide the opportunity to address a series of critical issues: – how to integrate an authentic contemporary monument with an adjacent city neighborhood undergoing rapid change- how to develop site and building within the network of city street, green spaces, and monuments- how or whether to integrate and recontextualize an existing industrial structure into the complex- how to explore a language of form and material to give legibility and identity to this important civic structureStudio ProcessWe will begin the semester with background research and analysis of the site and its surroundings including the Freyssinet Hall; an analysis of the courthouse subject, including graphic analysis of dimensional and functional characteristics; and a study of analogous projects/landscapes in Paris. We will travel to Paris to visit the site between October 4th and 10th, have presentations by the Ministry of Justice about the program and site conditions, and see two recently completed courthouses. Upon return, teams of two or three students will work together for three weeks to develop a master plan for the area. The final seven weeks will be devoted to developing the design of the courthouse and its site either continuing in teams or individually. The studio is open to students in architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture who have strong backgrounds in architecture.