Law courts of 1986-1988 by Evans and Shalev.
Reasons for Designation
The Truro Courts of Justice, law courts of 1986-1988 by Eldred Evans and David Shalev, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* as a landmark late-C20 civic complex, its spatial order and clarity of organisation reflecting the designers' modernist roots, while the axial plan and pedimented entrance portico suggests post-modern classical influences;
* for the consistently high standard of finishes and craftsmanship and refined palette of materials which alludes to the Cornish vernacular;
* for the quality and planning of its interior which present a formal yet accessible sequence of contrasting spaces, ordered by routes drive through, sober and dignified in character, meticulously detailed and resourcefully lit;
* as a major complex which integrates well in the townscape, occupying the position of the former castle commanding good views over the Cathedral and Victoria Park, yet responding in its careful massing and proportions to the texture and scale of the nearby housing;
* as a major work by the eminent practice of Evans and Shalev.
Post-Modernism, a movement and a style prevalent in architecture between about 1975 and 1990, is defined in terms of its relationship with modern architecture. Post-Modernist architecture is characterised by its plurality, engagement with urban context and setting, reference to older architectural traditions and use of metaphor and symbolism. As a formal language it has affinities with mannerism (unexpected exaggeration, distortions of classical scale and proportion) and the spatial sophistication of Baroque architecture. Post-Modernism accepts the technology of industrialised society but expresses it in more diverse ways than the machine imagery of the contemporary High-Tech style.
The origins of the style are found in the United States, notably in the work of Robert Venturi and Charles Moore which combined aspects of their country’s traditions (ranging from the C19 Shingle Style to Las Vegas) with the knowing irony of pop art. A parallel European stream combined an abstracted classicism or a revival of 1930s rationalism with renewed interest in the continental city and its building types. In England, the American and European idioms converged in the late 1970s, to produce works by architects of international significance, including James Stirling, and distinctive voices unique to Britain such as John Outram. The 1980s revival of the British economy was manifested in major urban projects by Terry Farrell and others in London, while practices such as CZWG devised striking imagery for commercial and residential developments in Docklands and elsewhere.
The Courts Act 1971 replaced the Assizes and the Quarter Sessions with the Crown Court in 1972. This transformed trial by jury and the type of buildings in which this took place. The Crown Court is a single court that sits continuously in 77 centres in England and Wales. The 1971 Act set in train a rolling programme of purpose-built court buildings in strategic locations, managed by the Property Services Agency (PSA). The 1971 consultative memorandum on court design, issued by the Joint Working Party on the Design of Higher Courts, recommended that the court rooms be placed on as few levels as possible with separate facilities for judges and juries. Of the 52 new buildings provided for the Crown Court in the 1980s and 1990s, 35, including Truro, were combined court centres. Combined court centres contain accommodation for the Crown Court and a smaller suite of rooms for the County Court. Both share a common central entrance, but the County Court usually has a separate seating area for people waiting to see the District Judges in their chambers. The civil courtrooms differ from criminal courts in having no dock and they may have moveable, rather than fixed furnishings.
The Courts of Justice in Truro occupies the site of the medieval castle, later occupied by a cattle market, on a prominent crest with views over the cathedral and city. Work began on site in February 1986 and finished in September 1988, the total cost of construction being £3.7 million in 1988. The architects attempted to design a ‘building of unique character and appropriate dignity which was at the same time unassuming, not overbearing and could blend into its surrounding, both in texture and scale’ (Architects’ Journal, 28 September 1988, p 42). The courts were nominated building of the year by the Architects’ Journal in 1988.
Eldred Evans (b 1937), the daughter of artist Merlyn Evans, studied at the Architectural Association (AA) and at Yale University, winning the competition for Lincoln Civic Centre in 1961, which was not realised. In 1968-1969 she studied planning at the Regent Street Polytechnic. David Shalev (b 1934) graduated at the Technion School in Israel, and on arriving in the UK taught at the AA and worked for the Israeli architect Dov Karmi. The partnership of Evans and Shalev was formed in 1965 to enter competitions for Antrim Civic Centre, Northern Ireland and a housing development for the National Trust at Broadclyst in Devon (not built). Newport High School at Bettws, Newport, Monmouthshire, won at competition in 1968, was their first major building (built 1969-1972, demolished 2008). Neave Brown invited them to design two buildings at the eastern end of the Alexandra Road estate in Camden: a children’s reception centre (1970-1975) a home for young disabled adults (1972-1976). After winning a number of competitions that were never realised (the Taoiseach’s residence and state guest house in Dublin, the Royal Military College Library at Shrivenham and the Israeli Supreme Court building in Jerusalem), Evans and Shalev completed a sequence of major commissions including the Truro Courts of Justice (1986-1988), the Tate Gallery, St Ives (1990-1993) and the Quincentenary Library at Jesus College, Cambridge (1995).
Truro Crown Courts, Courts of Justice, Edward Street, Truro, Cornwall, 1986-1988, architects Evans and Shalev, structural engineer Antony Hunt Associates, services engineer Max Fordham and Partners.
STRUCTURE/MATERIALS: reinforced concrete frame and troughed floor slabs, clad in light-grey roughcast render incorporating quartz chippings, plaster painted white, painted precast concrete elements, dark red/brown brick dressings, slate, ceramic paviours, hollow glass blocks and ash panelling and fittings.
PLAN: the Courts of Justice are located on a prominent hilltop site, overlooking the towns and adjoining Victoria Gardens to the west. The principal entrance portico is on axis with Edward Street. The building is of two storeys arranged in a compact, asymmetrical plan on a 150mm module. Steps down from the entrance lead to a circulation concourse which encircles a central rotunda to the west and which is open to an enclosed courtyard to the east. The rotunda doubles as a circulation hub and waiting space, and has stairs to the upper level and access to adjoining consultation rooms. To the west are three staggered court rooms: large and small crown courts and a dual-purpose court. Each has separate circulation arrangements for judiciary, jury, defendants and public, and the dual-purpose court is served by a smaller rotunda. The judge’s chambers and jury retiring rooms are situated to the west with views over Victoria Gardens (and, for the former, access to a judges’ garden). The public concourse continues to the east as an ambulatory around a courtyard garden (in the manner of walled Cornish gardens). The first floor contains administrative facilities, jury accommodation, canteen and conservatory. The defendants’ entrance and holding cells are at basement level.
EXTERIOR: the exterior is low-slung and diffuse, appearing to emerge organically from the contours of its hillside site. The external walls are of light grey roughcast render in the Cornish manner, with plinths of dark brown bricks and dark brown brick and moulded pre-cast concrete cornices or coping stones. The perimeter walls are similarly detailed and include spherical downlighters. The door and window lintels are formed of pre-cast concrete and project to form a stepped and chamfered hoodmould. The principal entrance is marked by a steeply pedimented portico, which echoes the gable ends of the adjacent houses on Edward Street. The large and small rotundas are distinguished by drums which rise above the flat roofs, terminating in conical slate roofs. The western elevations, which overlook Victoria Gardens are sharply angled to reflect the site boundary and to articulate the stepped court rooms.
INTERIORS: the public concourse is a semi-open flight of steps, in red-brown square tiles, separated from the courtyard to the east by an open colonnade. To the left is a curved ramp, defined by a solid balustrade and tubular steel handrail, and the outer-wall of the rotunda. The entrance route continues through revolving doors into a reception area. The central rotunda has a ceramic floor tiles in a diaper pattern, low walls of dark red/brown brick and white plastered walls. A raised drum, carried on columns, is lit by bands of sand-blasted glass bricks and a lantern set into the apex of the conical roof. Paired flights of stairs, with black-brick treads and tubular steel handrails, give access to the first floor facilities. The smaller rotunda, serving the dual-purpose court, is similarly detailed. Cellular rooms and corridors borrow natural light with windows of glass blocks, some of which incorporate the crests of Cornish towns. The skirting rails are of chamfered brick in the main circulation areas and profiled softwood elsewhere, and a ‘shadow gap’ separates them from the plaster wall above. The court rooms have concealed top lighting flanking a panelled ceiling and uplighters to the side walls. The public entrance doors incorporate gridded glass panels. The side walls have large painted panels and the fixed benches are of grey-painted ash in a gridded design. The judge’s bench incorporates the circular crests of Cornish towns and is set into a curved, quasi-apsidal recess.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: curved garden wall to west and walled enclosures at the top end of Edward Street. Raised beds and dwarf walls define southern boundary of car park to Union Street. External hard landscaping to courtyard.