Courtrooms around the world are things of beauty

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By Alex Wade on

Here are some of the best

Zaha Hadid’s Madrid Civil Courts of Justice design is beautiful – but has yet to be realised
Zaha Hadid’s Madrid Civil Courts of Justice design is beautiful – but has yet to be realised

Recently we brought you the story of the man who stole the roof of Luton Crown Court.

For all the speculation that he was stealing the lead from the courtroom roof to sell it, we wonder if there’s a different explanation.

Perhaps the roof-loving felon wanted to emulate some of the greatest courtrooms in the world — to build his very own temple of justice?

It is, after all, a truth universally acknowledged that courthouses rank among the most elegant buildings known to man. With their clean lines, architectural splendour and imposing form, these buildings are often a joy to behold.

Take, for example, the following. They’re dreams in Wayne Common’s mind.

1. US Supreme Court


The current US Supreme Court building did not exist until 1935. Before that it had a somewhat nomadic existence, sitting in New York, Philadelphia and then in half a dozen places in Washington, D.C. before architect Cass Gilbert was hired to provide it with a permanent home.

In keeping with nearby congressional buildings, it has a classical Corinthian style. Vermont marble was used for the outside, while the four inner courtyards are of white Georgia marble.

2. Royal Courts of Justice


Built in the 1870s, the Royal Courts of Justice, in London, is a large, imposing building in the Victorian Gothic style. Its front porch is adorned by the carved heads of eminent judges, while over the judges’ entrance, a stone cat and dog represent fighting litigants.

Inside, its magnificent interior contains 88 courtrooms, more than 1,000 rooms and three and a half miles of corridor. It is labyrinthine — no wonder many a trainee has got lost on their first couple of visits. (There’s also a back entrance, handy for escaping the paps in big media cases.)

3. High Court of Bombay


The High Court of Bombay, in Mumbai, India, built in the mid-17th century, is an impressive building. Visitors can go into the courtrooms and watch the lawyers at work, and may also want to look closely at the intricately carved pillars. Among the carvings is a one-eyed monkey fiddling with the scales of justice.

4. Chiesa di San Firenze


Florence’s law courts are housed in the Chiesa di San Firenze, two historic churches linked with an ornamental façade, and located in the centre of this beautiful city.

5. Supreme Court of Singapore


Finally, the two Supreme Court Buildings of the Colonial District in Singapore dominate the skyline. The former court, with its domed green lead roof, was built in the 1930s, while the new one, designed by Sir Norman Foster, has a flying saucer-shaped upper tier. It is impossible to miss.


As for the future, Zaha Hadid’s sublime design for the Madrid Civil Courts (pictured above) of Justice in 2008 used “soft, dynamic, tectonic turns” to create a structure that seemed to float above the ground. Shifting metallic panels on the exterior gave it the appearance of a coiled spring.

Sadly, owing to lack of funds, the project never materialised. Perhaps, however, Hadid’s design will one day find a home — anyone got any lead to contribute to it?