The new Singapore State Courts complex is three times the size of the existing courts building from the 1970s. The preservation of the octagonal building and the relatively small site area made it necessary to stack the 53 courtrooms and 54 hearing rooms. To allow more daylight into the building, the complex was divided into two slender 35-story towers connected by glazed foot bridges up to twelve meters long.
Unlike conventional courthouses, which usually have a horizontal layout and are designed to be visually closed to the outside, the new State Courts were arranged vertically and conceived to be approachable, or symbolically open, to the public by omitting an exterior façade.
The front tower contains courtrooms of various sizes. These are inserted in the form of enclosed cubes into the building structure of open levels of varying ceiling heights. Instead of a glazed exterior façade, the rooms on the individual levels are surrounded by lush garden terraces. These open areas protect the courtrooms from the tropical sun, facilitate natural ventilation and daylighting, and offer unobstructed views of the city. The courtrooms themselves are clad in 5- to 12-meter-high pigmented precast panels that echo the color and texture of the terracotta-colored pitched roofs of adjacent historical commercial buildings in Chinatown. The intention was to combine two typical architectural forms of the immediate vicinity – namely the modern highrise and the colonial-era shophouses – so that something familiar and something new emerge simultaneously.