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Law Courts:
bringing light to
dark circumstances

Nature-inspired Shepparton Law Courts radiate natural light

This striking five-level court building diverts from the traditional court to reflect international trends in modern design.

The design for Shepparton Law Courts in Victoria was led by Architectus director Mark Wilde, who is an expert in law court design.

“First and foremost, a court building needs to be a welcoming facility,” says Wilde.

Shepparton Law Courts

“Courts can be a stressful place for people, so our focus is to design court buildings which are sensitive and supportive to all occupants. To bring a sense of calmness to Shepparton Law Courts, we used the region’s ancient River Red Gum Trees as a reference throughout the design.”

According to Wilde, these trees have a distorted root system that anchors them to the ground and filters perforated sunlight through their canopies. This image inspired the design of the court’s welcoming entry lobby.

“The lobby’s design gives the illusion of being underneath a leafy tree, with timber used as a primary material, coupled with curved ceilings and perforated light throughout. The air conditioning has even been programmed to feel like a natural breeze,” says Wilde.

Natural lighting is another key feature in the court’s design.
“Allowing daylight to enter a space provides a connection to the outside environment and gives those within a sense of time and respite,” says Wilde.

“To achieve consistent light throughout the building, we landed on a two-courts-per-floor design, which eliminated the traditional long corridors and provided a seamless connection between the forecourt, lobby and court rooms.”
The building features a delicate arrangement of clear triple-glazed windows, translucent glass, sunscreens and variable blinds that wrap around the courts and public waiting halls. This was done to convey openness and transparency while also maintaining security and privacy.

“We started with three guiding principles, solidified by the local community in Shepparton: natural light, reference to the famous Red River Gum, and use of natural materials and brickwork that linked to other local buildings in the area,” says Wilde.

“We centred the design around these core elements throughout the entire planning and consultation process with the local community, and the overall look and feel of the building reflects this.”

Wilde has worked on a number of previous law court designs. One notable example is the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law in Brisbane, “which took a radical departure from traditional court design by exhibiting a high level of transparency and lightness”, says Wilde. This element was built upon in the design of Shepparton Law Courts, where natural light weaves throughout the building.

This article first appeared here in Architecture & Design.