David Chipperfield Architects

Law Courts Complex . Salerno

David Chipperfield Architects . Alberto Izzo & Partners . fotos: secco

This design for a Palace of Justice in Salerno souther Italy is located on a former goods yard, peripheral to the city centre, in an area highlighted for renewal and regeneration as part of Spanish architect Oriol Bohigas masterplan for the city.

Won in competition, its solution to integrate the massive programme of the law courts into the existing urban fabric was to conceptually structure the site as a series of responses to its immediate context – principally the new boulevard that extends along the site’s eastern side, the railway siding to the west, and the tail of the site looking south towards the sea.
Within this site, and central to the development of the new law courts, was the idea of creating a judicial building which was not intimidating but expressive of ideas of justice rather than authority.
The building’s design concept, in this way, developed as a reaction to the existing typology of a law court, traditionally understood as an imposing, portico-fronted singular structure. In contrast to this conventional image, the proposal fragments the large institutional model by dividing the volume of the law courts into a composition of smaller buildings. Each of these smaller, individualised structures is articulated as a simple block, finished in pre-cast concrete panels with terracotta aggregate, and punctured by a series of openings designed to emphasise their vertical aspect in contrast to the horizontality of the services plinth out of which they emerge.
To reinforce this idea of an open and accessible structure (in both a physical and social sense) the design is presented as a public space that exploits Salerno’s ambient climate by connecting each of its various blocks via a series of gardens and colonnades.
This revealing of the internal spaces of the courts and clustering of individual buildings not only offers an original architectural take on the judicial court, but also maintains a sense of organic growth, vital for the Palace of Justice and for the redeveloped city of Salerno as a whole.

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