civic center, downtown los angeles

SOM Wins Design Competition for New Downtown LA Federal Courthouse

According to a source in the architectural industry, SOM has won the competition to design the new federal courthouse in Downtown LA (Photo: Google Maps)

A source at a large architectural and design firm in Downtown LA has sent in a tip that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (better known as SOM) has won the design competition along with contractor Clark Construction for a new $400 million federal courthouse to be built at First and Broadway. Last week, Curbed LA announced that we would find out who the winner would be this week from the U.S. General Services Administration, which is the federal agency spearheading the new courthouse.

Currently, the 3.6 acre site at First and Broadway — directly across the street from the Los Angeles Times building — is nothing more than a giant sunken dirt lot with a chain-linked fence surrounding the property’s vast perimeter. When it rains, the sunken lot becomes a giant muddy lake in the middle of the city. Locally, officials and community leaders have strongly supported the development of the site as the existing setup is not only an eyesore, but creates a gaping void between the Civic Center and the rest of Downtown LA.

The proposed plan to build the new 24-courtroom building would entail swapping the existing federal courthouse at First and Spring (which recently received national landmark status) with a yet-to-be-determined private developer who would also develop a new federal office tower on the new site at First and Broadway adjacent to the new federal courthouse.

The other three architectural firms that were competing to design the new federal courthouse are Hensel Phelps Construction with Yazdani Studio & Gruen Associates, McCarthy with Brooks-Scarpa & HMC Architects, and Mortensen Construction with NBBJ Architects.

Earlier this year, SOM announced that they would be returning to Los Angeles, opening a design studio and office in Downtown LA after being absent from the Southern California market for more than two decades. This exciting news came after two other prominent architecture firms, Gensler and SAA, relocated their Los Angeles corporate headquarters to Downtown LA as well.

SOM is one of the largest architectural firms in the world with countless high profile global projects including the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) in Chicago and the tallest skyscraper in the world in Dubai — the Burj Kalifa at 2,716 feet tall.

Initial work on the new downtown federal courthouse is set to begin later this year with construction completed in 2016.

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  1. Topher says

    Hope SOM designs something beautiful and iconic like they have for Dubai.

  2. Ian C. Lundy says

    Can’t wait to see this design, SOM does beautiful work. What does the timeline for this project look like?
    The sooner this is completed the sooner we can eliminate the old offices and expand Grand Park!

    • Those are the hideous county court houses around Grand Park, this new courthouse would replace the beautiful Art Deco federal courthouse east of city hall. So it wouldn’t affect Grand Park. Hopefully they’ll adapt the old courthouse to creative office space fore film production companies so more can move downtown.

  3. William says

    Check out the latest rendering on Hargreaves Associates Architects’ website who I suppose will be collaborating with SOM. I hope that this is not the final plan. Although it is hard to determine the orientation of this building relative to the site, the height at 11 stories is disappointing to say the least. My thought would be that such a tower to be iconic relative the the other more squat buildings in the civic center should be at least 350-400 ft. tall. But this tower is the same height as is a new county courthouse that is now under construction in Downtown San Bernardino (also designed by SOM). It is a little more than half the square footage yet 11 stories. I suppose that the best outcome of the Federal tower’s short stature is that it will not obstruct the tremendous views of the financial district from Grand park

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