SOM's los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground
SOM's los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground
aug 15, 2013

SOM's los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground

SOM’s los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground
image © SOM
all images courtesy of U.S. general service administration



the los angeles federal courthouse designed by SOM has broken ground. the civic building is aiming for LEED platinum, as part of a greater municipal effort to construct environmentally efficient facilities. located in the city’s downtown area, the 600,000 square foot building is slated to feature precedent-setting sustainable measures for american civic structures– project leaders have even discussed the possibility of selling the previous courthouse to be refitted with community-building programming. the minimal form, dubbed ‘the cube’, will lend gravitas and significance to a formerly vacant lot in the city with a pleated, glazed skin. the new square volume will house the U.S. district court and central district of california as well as 24 courtrooms and 32 judicial chambers. as one of the busiest federal courts in the country, the construction if the appropriately dense program is projected to boost the city’s economy by providing a large number of new jobs for people in the region.


the structure’s environmental design principles begin with its orientation. the north/south positioning is maximized by the jagged facade – able to harness daylight required for the interior spaces and reducing solar gain by 47%. the direction of the building also offers key view shafts out towards the city. a highly efficient 225 kW heating and ventilation system ensures that comfortable interior thermal conditions are maintained throughout the year, while the roof holds a 400kW array of photovoltaic panels that will produce 525,000 kWh annually.



SOM's los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground
the cube in context
image © SOM



an abstracted and updated version of the classic tripartite design – consisting of a base, body and cornice, the floating volume appears to be hovering on its stone foundation. the facility’s innovative structural engineering means it will be one of the country’s safest and secure buildings having tectonic mechanisms that make the structure earthquake-proof and secure from bomb threats. integrated sustainability features also include water-efficient fixtures, advanced irrigation systems and state of the art building systems. the environmentally efficient design ensures that it will have as minimal impact on precious natural resources as possible, while providing energy and cost savings for the long term. 



SOM's los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground
a pleated facade protects against solar heat gain
image © SOM



SOM's los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground
interiors are light-filled and airy
image © SOM



SOM's los angeles federal courthouse breaks ground
the seemingly floating volume will transform a previously vacant lot
image © SOM



project info:


location: 350 w. 1st street, los angeles, ca 90012
building size: approx. 600,000 gross square feet
design-build contract: $319 million
major tenants: U.S. district court, central district of california, U.S. marshals service, U.S. general services administration, federal public defender (trial preparation space) U.S. attorney office (trial preparation space)
architect: skidmore, owings & merrill llp
general contractors: clark construction group
construction managers: jacobs project management
scheduled completion: summer 2016



  • Nice addition to the LA skyline! Thank you!

  • reminds me a lot of circa 1960s SOM work

  • I think this will be one where the reality will be more impressive than the rendering.


have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

architecture news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
506,184 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample
designboom magazine