General Services Administration, Wheeling, WV
A modern addition demonstrates a creative approach to providing security on a downtown site
The new Annex presented a rare opportunity to extend the urban presence of the court and strengthen a significant city block that had lost its integrity with vacant lots and lesser-quality buildings. Located within an historic district, the original 1905 National Register court building, with its handsome Beaux Arts facade, defines a key corner in downtown Wheeling. A critical early decision was made to acquire several nearby commercial buildings so that the courthouse complex could extend the full length of the block and bring visual order to the environs. The main challenge was to design a building that expressed the court's traditional image of dignity and public accessibility, while at the same time meeting security requirements.
The new Annex, housing a U.S. district courtroom, judges' chambers and clerk's offices, marshals' areas, U.S. Attorney offices, and parking garage, features a four-story, glass-enclosed atrium that connects the new building to the 1905 courthouse and serves as the main entryway and central public gathering space.
- With its soaring glass-enclosed atrium, the Annex is decidedly modern, yet we paid careful attention to respect the historic character of the original courthouse in terms of massing, scale, and materials.
- The design incorporates a subtle, unobtrusive approach to providing blast protection and security, even while the lobby’s glass wall is right at the sidewalk. This is seen as a national precedent for urban settings.
- Clerestory windows at the atrium roof draw daylight into the new district courtroom that, for security reasons, is embedded within the Annex.
- Three independent circulation systems were created for the primary user groups: the public, prisoners and marshals, and the judicial staff. For example, separate entrances and exits were designed for the prisoners so they don't cross paths with the judicial staff or the public. A parking garage was included for exclusive use by the judges, marshals, and U.S. Attorney, allowing them to enter and exit the building securely.
- The design of the new Annex furthers important goals of the General Services Administration's Design Excellence Program including promoting government building designs that help invigorate and revitalize central business districts.