The construction of Christchurch’s Justice and Emergency Services Precinct is a particularly fitting topic for this blog, as it combines both the law and the erection of buildings.
This post-quake project is aiming to consolidate all of Christchurch’s justice and emergency services in a single purpose-built precinct in the City’s centre. This $300 million project will serve as the new hub for Christchurch’s judicial system, Police, Corrections, St John, Ministry of Civil Defence and City Council. It is set to be fully operational mid-2017.
Interestingly, the precinct has been designed in a manner that will hopefully combat some of problems that are traditionally associated with courts in New Zealand. In an attempt to move away from the defensive and exclusive architecture that New Zealand’s courts have customarily displayed, the facility has been designed to embrace a more open, transparent and modern environment. This is set to help curb the criticism of courts being primarily Western-focused and a largely inaccessible institution.
Additionally, in the face of ever-increasing case-loads, and the subsequent backlog often experienced in the judicial system, this new facility has been designed to significantly increase capacity as well. 19 courtrooms are set to be installed, many of which will built to serve many different functions.
Lastly, in a conscious effort to make the youth justice sector a more accessible forum, there will be specialist facilities for youth justice agencies in the precinct. The new facilities in this division will hopefully provide an environment that will allow for “earlier intervention, better information sharing and more efficient support for victims and defendants as they enter the court system” says Amy Adams.
This marks an exciting time for Christchurch and New Zealand’s legal system, but this construction project begs the question to what extent can architecture help combat pressing social issues?