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Image courtesy of Brookfield Multiplex

Project Profile: Western Australian District Court

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taking justice into the 21st century By David Said

The new Western Australia District Court building in Perth, which opened in June 2008, not only provides the people of Western Australia with a state of the art facility incorporating the very latest security and communications technology, but also delivers justice with a human face and gives Perth a handsome new landmark building in the heart of the central business district.


Fernando Faugno, of Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland Architects, designed the new courthouse to meet three important judicial objectives. The first was to create an appropriate and dignified setting for the enactment of justice with due regard for practical needs such as security and separate access and accommodation for prisoners, jurors, judges, witnesses and the public. The second was to provide a non-intimidating and reassuring environment for the people who would use the building in their capacity as witnesses, victims, family members, jurors litigants, accused and legal professionals. The third was to accommodate the array of support, technical and administrative systems that are essential to modern judicial procedures. The District Court consists of two separate buildings linked at the upper levels by bridges across a three stories high glazed atrium that provides an interlude of light, space and peace for those who are about to enter the often stressful justice process. There is also a garden that people involved in court proceedings can visit for a few moments of relaxation. The three storey building facing Irwin St,

which houses reception, administration and victim and witness support services, has been limited in height to ensure that it does not block natural light from entering the court rooms and judges' chambers in the main building behind it. This 12 storey main structure, which accommodates 24 courtrooms, is actually the equivalent height of a 16 storey building, utilising the extra ceiling height to add a formal

dimension to the environment in which legal proceedings take place. From the outside, the new courthouse can be identified from a distance by an abstract metal sculpture more than 12 metres tall. It was created in gleaming aluminium by well known Western Australian artist Anne Neil and its corner position makes it visible from both Hay and Irwin Streets.

The heritage-listed portico of the 1899 St George's Hall is incorporate in the facade of the new building. Image courtesy of Brookfield Multiplex


he 27,000 square metre court building, which cost $195 million, was designed by Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland and built by Brookfield Multiplex as a PPP (public private partnership) between the State Government and Western Liberty Group, a consortium led by banker ABN Amro. The PPP agreement will continue for 27 years from construction commencement, since Western Liberty will maintain the building, provide custodial security and manage the facility until 2035. The District Court is Western Australia’s newest tier of justice, created in 1969 as an intermediate level between the magistrate courts and the state Supreme Court, but it has never had a home of its own in Perth before. The striking new building on the corner of Hay and Irwin Streets is situated just across the road from the Central Law Court building that houses the Magistrate’s Courts and is linked to it beneath Hay Street.

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Project Profile: Western Australian District Court Image courtesy of Brookfield Multiplex

The building also incorporates a piece of its own history. This was the site of the 1879 St George’s Hall, a theatre that became the Government printing office in the early 1900s, and the original neoclassic portico has been retained as part of the Hay St facade. Pedestrians passing by can read the history of the original building which is displayed on metal plaques beneath the portico.

Interior Design

The new District Court accommodates 24 court rooms of varying sizes and functions on seven levels, with judicial chambers on the upper levels. The largest of the court rooms, the impressive 250 square metre Ceremonial Court used on formal state occasions, can seat up to 40 judges and is finished with wood panelling and leather upholstery, while Australia’s first purpose-built high security courtroom features glazed security areas, a large public gallery and facilities for live video conferencing. The colour scheme throughout the building is deliberately calm and reassuring and the courthouse is one of the few in Australia with access to natural light in most courtrooms and public areas, a comforting feature in a sombre judicial environment that can be oppressive and intimidating for some participants. In addition to its signature outdoor sculpture, the new Perth District Court houses an outstanding collection of paintings by leading Western Australian indigenous and non-indigenous artists which are displayed in the main entry foyer and in each of the foyers of the seven courtroom levels. The ground floor entry foyer features a second work by Anne Neal, a relief sculpture in concrete that casts an ever changing pattern on the west wall as the sun moves, and a large painting by well known indigenous artist Shane Pickett that connects the modern Court with traditional Aboriginal healing grounds where disputes were settled.

Challenging site.

Tony Hodder of Brookfield Multiplex remembers this as one of the tightest sites he has ever had to work on. The site is only 60 metres square and he had to throw a gantry over the open parking lot at the rear just to create enough lay down space for construction materials and prefabrication of steel reinforcing. Traffic management, particularly during the deep basement excavation, was also complicated by the fact that the site fronted a busy main road and the need to provide 24 hour access for vehicles of the Hay St Fire Brigade. Time was of the essence and one strategy used to ensure the deadline was met was for the John Massey Group, acting as the approval authority, to issue separate compliance authorities for each floor as it was designed, so that Brookfield Multiplex could get to work floor by floor instead of waiting for the whole building to be approved. The functional requirements of an operating

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The impressive Ceremonial Courtroom used on formal occasions can accommodate up to 40 judges. courthouse created their own complexities when it came to ensuring separate access and circulation routes for various categories of users. Judges, jurors, witnesses, victims, defendants in custody and the public all have to have their own entrances to the court rooms, jury rooms and other specific use areas and this required dedicated elevators, air circulation systems and fire evacuation routes – not only to guarantee the security of prisoners, but also to ensure that jurors, vulnerable witnesses and victims would not need to come face to face with those accused in their cases, even in an emergency. Brookfield Multiplex and their specialist consultants had to design and install six separate sets of elevator shafts, fire stairs and evacuation routes, each one physically separated from the others. The new courthouse is connected to the 1981 Central Law Court building across the street by an underground pedestrian walkway and a road tunnel that enables prisoners awaiting trial to be transported to both lower and higher courts in the same vehicle and be placed in the appropriate basement custodial cells on arrival. The tunnels had to be installed under a main road without affecting existing water mains, electricity and other services running above and without closing the road to traffic.

Electronic and sustainable technology

The electronic security and communications systems designed for the new District Court are absolutely state of the art. Security systems ensure constant video surveillance of all courtrooms, public spaces and custodial cells, while the court’s advanced communications network includes video links for taking evidence from remote areas, closed circuit

systems to transmit the evidence of children and victims who could not face their attackers in open court and video conferencing facilities from areas such as the high security court. The environmental engineering of the building minimises the use of energy for heating and cooling through a combination of measures, including sunshades and louvres to capture winter sun and exclude summer sun, effective insulation, use of internal and external concrete surfaces as a heat bank and energy efficient glass that reduces heat loading. Other sustainability initiatives include water efficient tap ware and smart flush technology, low maintenance and natural finishes and the world’s first low energy flat lighting panels. As one would expect, security is also a prime concern. The most up to date electronic alarm and door control and intruder detection systems have been installed and an airportstyle security checkpoint screens all members of the public entering the building.

Outcome: A new standard of court architecture

The new Western Australian Court has redefined standards of court architecture in Australia. Its high tech security, communication and control systems will serve as a reference site for any new public court building, which will have to match or exceed them, but it is the non-functional attributes that should really make a difference. The appreciation of the Western Australian Government, the architect and the Western Liberty Group that the cost of justice measured in human terms of stress is high and their determination to make the building a more welcoming and reassuring environment for all participants rather than the symbol of an aloof and forbidding legal process, should be applauded. A

Project Profile: Western Australian District Court GENERAL CONTRACTOR

Brookfield Multiplex

Contact: Tony Hodder 173 Mounts Bay Road Perth, WA 6000 P: 08 9483 0899 F: 08 9483 0898

Brookfield Multiplex worked in close partnership with ABN AMRO (Project Financiers) during the bid and contract negotiation phases of the project, and commenced construction of the new Court facility in June 2005. In a non standard arrangement Brookfield Multiplex was not only responsible for the delivery of this complex design and construct project, but was also responsible for ensuring that Western Liberty Group, its operators (Maintenance, Security, Custody and Court Reporting) and the operating systems were ready to commence on day one in the new facility. The construction was progressed in parallel with a detailed design development phase that ensured the various needs of key stakeholders (from both the District Court and WLG’s Operators) were met. This consultative approach to design development has resulted in the delivery of Australia's most functional and technologically rich single jurisdiction court facility to the State of West Australia.


Marshall Beattie Pty Ltd


Contact: Trevor Tolliday 80 Cleaver Terrace Belmont, WA 6104 P: 08 9355 5600 F: 08 9355 5992

Acoustics • Vipac Engineers & Scientists LTD 3/320 Great Eastern Highway Ascot, WA 6104 P: 08 9277 3335 F: 08 9277 3325

We were involved in the construction of the new District Court Building in Perth and supplied and installed the big Sally Port Doors, with associated Automation and Control System. We also supplied and installed the Automatic Roller Shutters and Gates. These all conformed to a very high standard, as required for Courts and Prisons. We have also installed Ram Barriers, Bollards, Sally Port Doors, Gates and Automation, to other Courts and Prisons in Western Australia. We provide an ongoing maintenance service program, for all installed equipment. We also have a 24 hour call out service for faults or damage. We supply, install and service Automatic Doors (we are Tormax Agents for Western Australia), Automatic Gates, Cantilever Gates, Boom Gates, Cable Gates, Security Turnstiles, Security Barriers and Bollards, Access Control Systems and Custom solutions for special requirements.

Mechanical Services • Envar Engineers & Contractors Pty Ltd 49 Furnace Road Welshpool, WA 6106 Office Furniture

Concrete Panels • Paragon Precast Industries Pty Ltd 435 Dundas Road Forrestfield, WA 6105

• Burgtec Australasia Pty Ltd 3 Kirke Street Balcatta, WA 6021 Plumbing Contractor

Door Hardware • Parker Black & Forrest Pty Ltd PO Box 1260 Osborne Park, WA 6917

• Sanwell Pty Ltd 37 Division Street Welshpool, WA 6109

Roofing Subcontractor • Creative Roofing 1830 Wanneroo Road Neerabup, WA 6031 Toilet Cubicles • Hufcor Pty Ltd Unit 2/160-162 Bannister Road Canning Vale, WA 6155 Windows & Glazed Curtain Walls • Ventara Holdings Pty Ltd 9/1 Duffy Street Bayswater, WA 6053

Electircal Contractor • Everett-Smith and Co Pty Ltd 26 Sarich Court Osborne Park, WA 6017 Fire Protection Services • Firemain Co 12 Davison Street Maddington, WA 6109 Flooring Supplier • Master Floors 25 Gladstone Street East Perth, WA 6004 Formwork • CACS Constructions Pty Ltd 45 Great Eastern Highway Redcliffe, WA 6104 Interior Fitout • Contract Office Interiors Contact: Geoff Metcalfe 414 Murray Street Perth, WA 6000 P: 08 9321 1222 F: 08 9321 1444

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Project Profile: Western Australian District Court  
Project Profile: Western Australian District Court  

Award Magazine Project Profile