While Osceola County was proud that it was home to the oldest operating courthouse in Florida, it recognized that the historic facility could not keep pace with the region’s rapid growth. County officials tapped Heery Design to design a contemporary courthouse, as well as renovate the existing historic courthouse, and create a centralized judicial and government campus that was sensitive to the surrounding residential neighborhood. From siting and master planning, to choosing materials and color palette, the team’s efforts were focused on paying deference to the historic courthouse and restoring it to a pedestrian friendly “campus on the green.”
New Osceola County Courthouse
The 247,000 SF Osceola County Courthouse houses the courts, court administration, the Clerk of the Court, the state’s attorney, the public defender and ancillary services of the sheriff and includes 12 courtrooms, 11 judicial chambers, one video hearing room and five hearing rooms. Operational efficiency was the driving force in the building’s functional layout. On a typical court floor, three pairs of courtrooms served by common secure cores dictate the floor plate, vertical circulation and support spaces. The pooled judges’ chambers on the sixth level are more efficient than if the chambers were distributed on lower court floors with greater heights. The collegial chambers also allow for the sharing of support services and spaces. The siting and design allows for a future addition to the east of the courthouse. While the metal curtainwall and detailing give the new courthouse an elegance associated with contemporary architecture, the brick and limestone finish pre-cast surfaces evoke the image of a classical American courthouse. Heery designers paid careful attention to creating a new entrance that would draw the separate buildings together. Flexibility played a major role in the project’s design. Heery designed the raised access flooring and fiber cabling to allow the county to adapt as technology and security needs evolve. With the knowledge that county growth would continue, Heery created a space that could easily accommodate expansion from 12 – 24 courtrooms. This cost saving method enabled the county to pay only $180/SF versus the $300/SF price being charged once the county began converting the shelled spaces.
Historic Osceola County Courthouse
Adding modern conveniences to a historic courthouse presents many issues and challenges. The 18,000 SF historic courthouse was designed in the Romanesque Revival style and was one of only four courthouses like it still in use in Florida. When Heery was commissioned to renovate Osceola County’s historic courthouse, which was originally completed in 1890, the firm set to work researching historical documents, so that they could find and specify period appropriate fixtures for the three-story red brick building. Lacking information on the historic structure, especially regarding its structural framing, designers went to the source—the building itself—to incorporate a new elevator inside the building. The architectural finishes in the area first were removed to expose the structure, and architects then verified the field conditions before developing the design. The architectural research also uncovered information about the round arches on the portico and above the doors and the segmental arches above the windows. The designers paid attention to even the smallest details to make the restoration as historically accurate as possible, while still making it work for the modern world. The courtroom, housed on the third level, was renovated to serve the county’s Grand Jury. Various county departments, such as human resources, veteran’s affairs and social services are now housed in the lower levels of the facility.
The 97,000 SF addition and 67,000 SF renovation to the county’s administration building was also critical to successful creation of this judicial campus on the green. Like the new courthouse, the administration building reflects the landmark’s Romanesque and Gothic/Victorian architecture and takes advantage of complementary building materials such as brick, limestone trim and metal roofs. The administration building houses departments including public services, public works, community development, finance and budget, in addition to the county commissioners, county manager and county attorney.
Key components of the design include:
247,000 SF New Construction, 18,000 SF Historic Restoration, 67,000 SF Renovation
AIA/Committee on Architecture for Justice; National Arbor Day Foundation, Building with Trees Award of Excellence