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Supreme Court

The Old High Court Building was built in 1879 on an east-west axis then facing the sea but now modern Office buildings, the New building on the same axis faces Lambton Quay and Parliament, making the urban design and landscape relationship with each important. A number of development options were explored for the new building with the final choice to make it small and special, rather than tall and commercial. This way the scale of the building sits respectfully alongside the historic building and the lower density development forms a natural margin between the open landscaping of the parliamentary precinct and the higher density CBD.

Architect: Warren and Mahoney Architects

Client: New Zealand Supreme Court


The design of the courtroom panelling was influenced by the spiral diamond patterns of the kauri cone and the idea of the court as the seed of a new tradition in NZ law. The elliptical volume is clad with more than 2294 panels of silver beech timber, producing both smooth and articulated surfaces to cater for differing acoustic properties required in the design. The room is sky-lit in order for those in the court to get some external view-often of the moving clouds above, and to provide controlled top-lighting to the space. A window in the wall opposite the Judges bench facing Lambton Quay allows not only the Judges to look out but the Public to literally see justice being done.

The first floor chambers are clusters of spaces for each of the judges and their support teams, all having good natural light, good furniture and fittings, mixed mode air conditioning and motorised blinds. Each judge has influenced the layout, furniture and artwork in their spaces, and though dimensionally almost the same they are all slightly different. The interior of these spaces and the upper floor generally is strongly influenced by the library and book storage, totalling 2.5 linear km of shelving. In order to accommodate this, all walls of the upper circulation space are entirely bookshelf lined. The judges’ chambers are also extensively fitted with built in joinery for storage of their many books and papers.

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