Downtown Federal Courthouse Gets Final Touches Before Opening

Downtown Federal Courthouse Gets Final Touches Before Opening
The new Los Angeles Federal Courthouse in DTLA. Photo by Hayley Fox

After $350 million and nearly four years of construction, downtown’s shiny new federal courthouse is ready for its public debut. Although the bulk of construction was completed in August, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Thursday and will feature speeches from Mayor Eric Garcetti, downtown councilman José Huizar and U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard.

The U.S. Marshal Service has already moved into the building and established airport-like security measures for everyone entering the space. Judges will begin their migration into the building in the next two weeks, but details on the logistics of the move haven’t been released.

There is only one entrance to the courthouse for security reasons, and the building’s mirrored glass exterior is designed to withstand an explosion.

It’s one of the safest courthouse in the country, both seismically and from violent threats, said Craig Hartman, senior consulting design partner at architectural firm Skidmore, Owings &Merrill LLP.

The aesthetics of the building are intended to highlight its location in downtown’s governmental epicenter, a stone’s throw from City Hall, the LAPD administration building, and an array of other courthouses.

The 633,000-square-foot mirrored glass cube is set back from traffic on the corner of 1st and Hill streets. With 10 floors, a penthouse, and a basement, the building has 24 courtrooms, including a massive, multi-defendant room that can accommodate more than a dozen defendants and their lawyers. The interior of the building consists entirely of white floors, sleek lines, marble accents and a flood of sunlight.

“The building is almost completely lit by natural daylight,” said Hartman.

He said visits to a courthouse are stressful enough, so the design team tried to create a space that was as “inviting as possible.” This includes a series of serene, large-scale photographs that stretch from the 10th to the fifth floor, and viewed as one giant piece, illustrate Yosemite Falls.

There are also mediation spaces along the windows of multiple floors, where visitors are expected to relax on couches and chairs and attempt to solve disputes preemptively.

“A lot of court cases get settled literally minutes before you walk into the courtroom,” said Hartman.

With the U.S. Marshals settled in, court support staff is focused on finalizing the AV systems in the building, such as the courtroom monitors used to view digital evidence. Judges are expected to begin moving in around Nov. 1.

Legal reporter Hayley Fox can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Follow her on Twitter at @EPFox.

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