“ When somebody walks into our courtrooms, they have an immediate impression that this is an important place, that something extraordinary is about to happen. ”

John C. Coughenour United States District Judge, Western District of Washington

NBBJ uniquely integrated new federal courthouse design methods, workplace strategy consulting and energy efficient solutions to create an icon of justice, democracy and civic presence that will remain a part of Seattle’s skyline for generations to come.

The tower design symbolizes the order and transparency of the judicial process, offering a window through which the public can sense the courtrooms and justice at work. The 23-story tower is flanked by the judicial chambers and an office bar. The office bar is a horizontal element that not only differentiates its purpose from the courtrooms, but relates it, along with the building as a whole, to the surrounding neighborhood.

The courthouse is the first in the nation to include universally-sized district and magistrate courtrooms, reducing the total number of courtrooms needed. In addition, courtrooms are stacked two per floor, which enabled the design team to provide a community park - resulting in 10 times more open space on the site than required by zoning code. Since moving into the courthouse, staff report an overall higher satisfaction with their workspace. The design saves taxpayers approximately $300,000 in annual energy costs.

Full-scale prototypes test design solutions in real time.
Full-scale prototypes test design solutions in real time.
Full-scale prototypes test design solutions in real time.
Full-scale prototypes test design solutions in real time.

Environmental Graphic Design

Environmental graphic design (EGD) utilizes illustrative, architectural and interior design methods to visually communicate information to occupants and visitors. When used in civic projects like the US Courthouse in Seattle, EGD helps with wayfinding and connecting citizens to the judicial process.

“ The experts who developed the Seattle Federal Courthouse support our democratic beliefs through architectural significance and functional workspace for workers at best value to taxpayers. ”

Stephen A. Perry Former United States Administrator of General Services, General Services Administration


ENR California, Award of Merit
General Services Administration, Design Excellence Award-Architecture & Interiors
General Services Administration, Design Excellence Award-Construction
General Services Administration, Design Excellence Award-Graphic Design
National Center for State Courts, Citation
AIA Pacific Northwest, Honor Award
AIA Seattle, Commendation