While the building may be ahead of the technology curve, local government officials looked to the past to come up with the design for Columbia County's Justice Center.
"The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia has a book that shows all of the courthouses in the state. We more or less came up with the design by going through that and looking at other courthouses," said Jim Whitehead, who was county commission chairman at the time the building was designed. "We picked four or five that we liked and got the judges' opinions, and the architects came up with the plans from that."
Designed by Rosser International Inc. in Atlanta, the 72,000-square-foot Georgian style brick building houses probate court, superior court, clerk of court, juvenile court, magistrate court, district attorney and regional court administrator offices. Forty-nine judicial, clerical and part-time people work there every day, along with nine security officers.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski said county and court officials were challenged to look at the big picture during the planning process.
The recessed ceilings in the main court-room are an example of the architectural highlights found throughout the new Justice Center.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We discussed the needs not only for the justice center, but also for the detention center. The initial idea was if you expanded the detention center without improving the justice facility, then you only had half the problem solved," he said. "The judges were instrumental in saying they wanted something like a justice center where everything dealing with the judicial system would be housed in one building."
On of the unique features of the building is its three circulation systems, one which allows the public to flow through the building, another for the staff and another which allows prisoners to be transported without having contact with the public or staff, Szablewski said.
It also takes advantage of the sloping site, with the lowest floor utilized for the prisoner holding cell.
"It allows efficient use of the building when court is not in session because that whole area can be closed off," Szablewski said. "And, with one central entrance for the public, it allows security to be maintained by a minimum number of people."
The most remarkable thing about the courthouse is its grand facade.
With its towering white columns and brick facing, it is a model for everything government officials would like the Evans Town Center to be.
"There was a lot of feeling by the county commission and the judges that it should look like a traditional court facility, and at same time there was the Evans Town Center study going on. There was an attempt to adopt a style of architecture that people felt would represent the tradition of the county being formed in the 1700s and would reflect that rich tradition," Szablewski said. "I think it's a very efficient interior floor plan with a traditional exterior, which may be unique."
"We wanted something that was traditional, something that reminded us of a courthouse, not just another building - a courthouse that befitted our judges with a feeling of respect for our judiciary."
Whitehead said future plans are to alter the facade of the Government Complex to more closely reflect the style of the Justice Center.
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