Le Palais de Justice – Paris
Architect: Daniel Badani
On my trip into the Parisian suburbs to see the Choux de Creteil I stumbled on this wonderful courthouse. The 16 storey tower symbolises the scales of justice and is designed to resemble an open book. Concrete seems an especially appropriate building for court buildings, as demonstrated by this imposing edifice. Stay out of trouble kids.
Bewick Court – Newcastle
Architect: Taylor Woodrow Construction
With its original concrete skin covered in plastic cladding, I’m not sure that the look of this building appeals to anyone. It is notable, however, for its position astride John Dobson Street. The tower, along with a small piazza, sit atop a concrete platform spanning the four lane road. A network of raised walkways connect the platform with several neighbouring buildings and the square behind Pearl Assurance House. This is a small part of the now faded dream of a pedestrianised city, raised on concrete above the noisy and polluted road network.
By the time I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth II courts it was quite late in the day. When looking towards the main entrance from Derby Square, the bright afternoon sun was hovering just over the roof, which kind of ruined my chances of a decent photo from that angle, but I have included one nonetheless.
The large edifice is clad in vertically ribbed panels of reddish sandy concrete. The verticality is emphasised in the towers, where strips of tiling punctuated by small arrow slit windows run from top to bottom. A raised glazed walkway – one of my favourite architectural features – connects two sections of the building and forms a nice gateway onto the square when approaching from behind the courts. The building is rich in details, the best being the little windows which are the focus of my first photo.
A strange element of this construction, and one which for me spoils it, is the lead covered mansard roof. It isn’t really visible from my photo selection, but from where I was taking lunch at the nearby Liverpool One complex it was the dominant feature. Apparently planning for the building started in 1974, a full 10 years before completion and just before the popularity the brutalist style began to wane. It is almost as if this postmodern element has been added to a brutalist base in an attempt to keep up with changing fashions. I think that this, in addition to the reddish colouring, results in something of a clumsy chimera of a building. It’s certainly not one for the purists, but it isn’t without its charms.