Chicago-based Wight & Company announced its latest project, the Will County Justice Center in Joliet, which will break ground in the spring of 2018. This new center will replace the aging adjacent structure with a modern justice facility featuring the latest advancements in security screening, courtroom technologies, energy management, and sustainable design strategies which are characteristic of Wight & Company’s Design & Delivery platform.
Kevin Havens, executive vice president and director of design at Wight, worked closely with the project team on developing the design solution, with early guidance from renowned architect Dirk Lohan, who recently combined forces with Wight & Company as principal. “Dirk encouraged us to emphasize simplicity in expression and clarity of building components,” said Havens. “This project is about transparency and access to justice invoked by a contemporary and architecturally captivating building that will become a catalyst for Joliet’s downtown development, as well as a symbol of civic pride.”
Located in a Collar county, southwest of Chicago, the Will County Justice Center joins a legacy of civic buildings in historic Joliet. This industrial-based town has historically embraced evolving concepts of modernity, and built structures as appropriate symbols of their time. The new structure will replace an adjacent facility originally built in the 1960s. In contrast to the former building’s oppressive and opaque expression, the new justice center aims to transform public perception of justice as open and inviting, transparent and accessible to all. The space will include 28 modern courtrooms upon opening, and will accommodate 38 courtrooms long term. Courtrooms will be utilized for criminal, civil, and family law cases. Court agency offices for the circuit court clerk and satellite offices for probation, states attorney and the public defender will also be incorporated. The proposed design will demonstrate principles of environmental stewardship through effective daylight harvesting, high performance glazing, energy efficient systems, vegetated roofs and a landscaped public plaza.
Security, always a critical consideration in a justice facility, will be reflected in the design of separate public, private, and prisoner internal circulation routes, modern screening technologies at the point of entry and exterior physical barriers protecting the civic plaza from unauthorized vehicle access. Additional court system support functions such as jury assembly, a law library and self-help legal center, alternative dispute resolution, grand jury and court administration will be accommodated in the new building.
The City of Joliet views the new justice center as an integral part of future downtown re-development, reflecting both the city’s past and future, as well as acting as a catalyst for additional economic growth.
“The courthouse of the last century was a cornerstone of the community, a source of civic pride and the nexus of social life and ceremony. Today, justice centers and the public spaces that surround them are typically disconnected from public life, often intimidating and unwelcoming to all except the legal community. One the primary objectives of this new justice center is to restore the original place of the courthouse in modern society, focusing on creating a positive connection between citizens and the principle of open access to justice. We envision this new Will County Justice Center will communicate innovation, dignity, and the notion of effective service to the entire community,” explained Havens.
Under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Mark Wight, Wight & Company recently combined forces with Dirk Lohan and Floyd Anderson, internationally acclaimed architects who built their firm, Lohan Anderson in Chicago, with deep roots going back to Lohan’s grandfather and mentor, 20th century master architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Lohan and Anderson are highly respected for their portfolio of global projects and interdisciplinary approach to design. The new agreement between Wight & Company and Lohan Anderson creates a strong powerhouse in design and architecture serving global clients.