Set against the building's classical main facade and a Minimalist addition of stark white interiors and austere new building faces, the highly ornamental panels of the courtrooms are a surprise. “The concept for these spaces was to create a hidden jewel in the center of the building,” says Gramazio & Kohler project leader Sarah Schneider. But beyond aesthetic considerations, the panels serve important visual and acoustical functions, reflecting light from the single central skylight above each of the four rooms and ensuring that proceedings within the courtrooms are audible. “Acoustical engineers had already determined that the panels required 20 percent perforation, and Bearth & Deplazes came to us with a very organic design idea of what they could look like,” recalls Schneider.
While those initial design sketches and plaster mock-ups were done by hand, Gramazio & Kohler's office developed the final design for the panels and their overall layout on the computer. Early 3-D prints on a small scale were made to understand how the swirling texture on the surface of the panels would flow around the perforations, and what kind of shadows it would cast. “The most important thing from an aesthetic point of view was to create a continuous pattern and ensure the panel edges were hidden to produce a homogeneous surface,” says Schneider.