Doing Stockton

The Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin balances the prestige of a traditional courthouse with the modern requirements of a high-rise structure.

Located on historic Hunter Square in the center of downtown Stockton, the architectural form of the courthouse is dictated by its narrow linear site. The 13-story tower, designed to accommodate four courtrooms on each floor, is composed in three layers; glazed public galleries facing east overlooking the city, courtrooms at the heart of the building and the judges chambers to the west.

A specific exterior architectural representation is assigned to each layer to clearly communicate the complex internal functions to the public. The transparent entry lobby is positioned adjacent to the tower and, in the best sense of American courthouse tradition, expressed as a grand public room framed by a tall colonnade and broad entry steps. The courtrooms with windows allowing filtered natural light to their interior and the chambers are clad in a precast concrete reflecting the colors and character of the surrounding farmland. The courtroom waiting galleries, emphasizing transparency in justice, are expressed as a large bay window attached to a polished white precast frame.

The courthouse is the tallest building in Stockton and its highly visible nature demands a distinctive civic architectural expression. The composed exterior representations culminate at the top of the building with the jury assembly room and roof terrace with a landscaped trellis and a deep projecting roof overhang providing shade. This significant roof element, when artificially illuminated and seen against the night sky, establishes a magnificent civic presence on the Stockton skyline.