The Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) Judicial Building is located just west of the State Capitol. The site contains an existing structure and a new 500,000 square foot office building that will be the latest edition to the family of RSA buildings present in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.
The existing historic courthouse became a hallowed piece of history in the Civil Rights Movement when MLK spoke on the front steps. The site also has a height restriction due to its adjacency to the State Capitol. Both these factors challenged any site development. In an effort to satisfy the client’s square footage parameters and the Historical Society, 2WR chose to celebrate the existing structure by encapsulating it, as if it were a preserved jewel protected while on display. The courthouse is delicately touched to accentuate old versus new. While the building materials are cognizant of typical “RSA” materials, the design statement remains progressive. Each facade is articulated to acknowledge not only its solar orientation, but also with an awareness to adjacent structures and pedestrian interaction.
The lower portion of the south facade has a three-story concealed structure – the “big window” to the old courthouse. A large monitor allows for natural light to illuminate the facade of the existing building. The facade above is adorned with a shading system to provide depth and texture. Vertical sunshades articulate the east side and reinforce the verticality of the windows. This facade also opens up at the staff entrance where a three-story lobby serves as transition between the two buildings. A plinth containing the parking garage anchors the north elevation’s sloping site. It then transitions to a highly transparent curtainwall system for the remaining floors. The west facade expresses the east-west lobby and spills out to a sophisticated outdoor room. It also has vertical sunshades that transition toward the top of the facade to a continuous daylighting spine on the roof. This project celebrates old and new in a dichotomous march.