Finegold Alexander Architects’ Lowell Justice Center Wins BSA Award

Lowell Justice Center

BOSTON – Boston-based Finegold Alexander Architects announced that the design for the Lowell Justice Center in Lowell, Massachusetts received the 2021 Boston Society of Architecture (BSA) Design Award for Accessible Design.

The Lowell Justice Center is a 265,000-square-foot, $146 million new construction building that opened its doors in March 2020. The modern courthouse is located on a 3.2-acre site at the northern edge of the Hamilton Canal District, within the Lowell National Historic Park. 

The Boston Society for Architecture, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), honors design excellence in New England and beyond with its annual BSA Design Awards, including the BSA Accessible Design Award. This award recognizes design excellence in buildings or facilities that emphasize accessibility to create a more equitable future and is only awarded every other year. The award’s program celebrates projects that integrate and exceed the legal requirements for accessibility with features that anticipate diverse user needs and benefits.  

With the project client’s (Division of Capital Asset Management and Office of Court Management) commitment to accessibility, Finegold Alexander and the entire project team delivered on these criteria designing a universally accessible building with all points accessible via the same path. Based on the site topography, this required working with landscape architects Copley Wolff Design Group to design sloped walks traversing a 22-foot grade change across the site leading to a fully accessible plaza and entry. This universally accessible concept continues throughout the building with ample circulation space, multiple elevators, accessible raised judge’s benches and witness stands, accessible detention areas, abundant wheelchair spaces with shoulder-to-shoulder companion seating in the courtrooms, jury pool and public lobbies, and audio and visual technology. Working with Coco Raynes Associates, wayfinding signs throughout the building feature multiple languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, Khmer, and Braille – to reflect the diverse community of Lowell. Construction was led by Dimeo Construction Company, whose attention to detail made each feature possible within the courthouse.  

The BSA jury selected the Lowell Justice Center as a recipient of the Accessible Design Award due to Finegold Alexander’s clear attention to physical and sensory comfort execution. The jury found the use of daylighting throughout the building, even in the highest stress-inducing areas, as an attractive feature. The material selection, public transportation hubs, and cultural gestures made in the welcoming two-story art glass installation that references the diverse communities of Lowell demonstrate Finegold Alexander’s commitment to accessibility while designing the courthouse. The jury noticed a strong effort for inclusivity, giving the impression that it is every visitor’s right to use this space. The final push to award The Lowell Justice Center the BSA Accessibility Design Award came from the building’s LEED Platinum status. The Lowell Justice Center is the first LEED Platinum certified courthouse in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the first state courthouse to achieve this certification in the United States. 

“We are excited to see Finegold Alexander, our entire project team and Lowell Justice Center be recognized for its tremendous effort in providing an accessible civic space for all,” said Jeffrey J. Garriga, Principal at Finegold Alexander. “We worked to balance functionality, maintainability, accessibility, security, and sustainability while executing this project to deliver an elegant and sustainable addition to the City of Lowell. Finegold Alexander is proud to accept this award.” 

The Lowell Justice Center courthouse contains office space for court staff, a Court Service Center, Law Library, Registry of Deeds, Office of the District Attorney, Grand Jury Room, and a total of 17 courtrooms and associated detainee holding cells. It also includes the operations of the Superior, District, Housing, Juvenile, Probate and Family Courts.  

Project Team: 

Architect                                           Finegold Alexander Architects 

CM                                                      Dimeo Construction 

Artist                                                  Martin Donlin 

Acoustics                                          Cavanaugh Tocci 

ADA                                                    Kessler McGuiness & Associates 

Audio Visual / PA                          Cavanaugh Tocci 

Civil Engineer                                   Nitsch Engineering 

Code Consultant                            Norton Remmer 

Cost Consultant                             Faithful and Gould 

Commissioning Agent                  NV5 

Electrical Engineer                        ART 

Elevator                                             Syska Hennessey 

Envelope                                           Simpson Gumpertz & Heger 

FP Engineer / Fire Alarm              ARUP 

Geotechnical Engineer                 McPhail Associates, LLC 

Interiors                                            Stefura Associates 

Landscape Architect                     Copley Wolff Design Group 

LEED                                                   The Green Engineer 

Lighting                                             Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting 

Mechanical Engineer                    ARUP 

Millwork                                            Vaughn Woodwork Consultant 

Plumbing Engineer                        ARUP 

Security                                             ARUP 

Signage                                             Coco Raynes Associates 

Specifications                                  Kalin Associates 

Structural Engineer                       RSE Associates, Inc.