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Moakley United States Courthouse & Harborpark

Boston  Map
1991–98
Lead Designers
Henry N. Cobb Ian Bader

An exceptionally privileged site on Boston Harbor is the occasion for this celebration, in architecture, of the dignity and probity of our federal court system.

This federal courthouse serves as headquarters for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The building houses two appeals courtrooms, 19 district courtrooms, six magistrate’s courtrooms, 42 judge’s chambers, a law library, offices for the U.S. attorney, and extensive facilities to support the operations of the federal courts. It has a total floor area of 765,000 square feet, distributed over ten floors above grade and one below.

To maximize the public benefit of its prime waterfront location, the courthouse incorporates a broad array of services and amenities, including a café, information center, and excursion boat ticket office in an arcaded waterfront loggia, as well as spaces for exhibitions, lectures, meetings, and dining in the Great Hall overlooking the Harborpark. Occupying the site’s entire 850-foot-long waterfront, the latter is landscaped with trees and plants indigenous to the New England seashore.

Show Facts
Site

4.6 acres; a key waterfront site on Fan Pier in South Boston

Components

760,000 ft2 / 71,000 m2 gross area; courtrooms, grand jury suite, jury assembly room, support facilities, offices, judges' chambers, District library, skylit entrance hall, skylit rotunda, Great Hall shaped by a glass conoid, public galleries, monumental public art, dining, childcare facility, outdoor arcade, landscaped park, other public amenities

Client

United States General Services Administration

PCF&P Services

Architecture; exterior envelope; interior design of public spaces, courtrooms, and judges' chambers

Awards

10 Year Award
U.S. General Services Administration, 2016

Presidential Design Citation
American Institute of Architects, 1999

Honor Award for Design
U.S. General Services Administration, 1996

Presidential Design Awards 2000: Federal Design Achievement Award
National Endowment for the Arts, 2000

Award of Merit
American Institute of Architects, District of Columbia Chapter, 1999

Brick in Architecture Award
American Institute of Architects / Brick Institute of America, 1999

DuPont Benedictus Award for Innovation in Architectural Laminated Glass
American Institute of Architects / DuPont, 1999

Design Awards: Grand Institutional Award for the Use of Laminated Glass in Design
Saflex, 1999

The decision to build the Courthouse on this highly visible waterfront site was a command to give voice, through architecture, to the aspirations and beliefs that underlie the American system of jurisprudence.

The L-shaped building covers 93,500 square feet at ground level, freeing more than half of its 4.5-acre site for public open space.

A commissioned work of art by Ellsworth Kelly, comprising 21 large-scale paintings installed in the Rotunda and Galleries, enriches the rotunda spaces while signaling their complementary roles—the former enclosed and contemplative, the latter open and engaged with city and harbor.

Typical courtroom floor

Geometry diagram of conoidal glass wall

The park is directly accessible from the Courthouse via a circular entry pavilion located at the midpoint of the conoidal glass wall that embraces the Great Lawn, an open space constituting the shared symbolic center of both Courthouse and Harborpark.
Project Credits

Executive Architect: Jung / Brannen Associates, Boston; Structural: LeMessurier Consultants, Cambridge, MA; Mechanical / Electrical: Cosentini Associates, New York; Courts Consultant: Gruzen Samton LLP, New York; Landscape: Olin Partnership, Philadelphia; Landscape: Carol R. Johnson & Associates, Cambridge, MA; Images: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Steve Rosenthal, Pamela Cobb