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Cleveland's Justice Center

Updated on July 23, 2016
Cleveland's Justice Center
Cleveland's Justice Center
Ontario Street & Lakeside Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio:
Lakeside Ave E & Ontario St, Cleveland, OH 44113, USA

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The City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Justice Center is a substantial development in neo-Brutalist governmental/institutional style.

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Known locally as simply The Justice Center, this complex in downtown Cleveland is actually an interconnected grouping of both city and county law enforcement facilities.

The Justice Center Complex is comprised of four distinct structures, joined by a sizable mid-block skylit atrium that accommodates secure entrances, grade level transitions and access to connected parking garages.

The Cleveland Police Headquarters Building, designed by the architectural firm of Richard L. Bowen and Associates, rises at the northwestern corner of Ontario Street and St. Clair Avenue. That headquarters building opened with the rest of the original Justice Center complex, after more than 7 years of planning and 3 years of construction.

To the Police Headquarters’ north beyond the atrium, and facing the historic neoclassical 1912 Cuyahoga County Courthouse across Lakeside Avenue, sits the Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Municipal Courts Tower. Designed by the firm of Prindle, Patrick and Partners, the Courts Tower’s 26 stories rise to an overall height of 420 feet, providing a strong presence in the city’s lakefront skyline. The Tower houses 44 court rooms and 9 hearing rooms shared by city and county.

The Correction Center (detention center or jail), also designed by Prindle, Patrick and Partners, and its subsequent expansion, occupy the northwesterly portion of the city block. They employ pod-like clusters under substantial daylighting to amass 777 cells in the first phase alone. Plagued by political wrangling, delays and cost overruns, the three original structures of The Justice Center finally opened in 1976 at a cost of $128 million.

The architectural stylings of all of these three original buildings are similar, with strongly slotted horizontal window bays, slope-faceted stone-clad spandrels, and strong vertical and horizontal forms. Deep recesses and accentuated columns at the bases of the Police Headquarters and Correction Center receive the broad stone-paved plazas at street level. Punctuating the main entrance plaza on Ontario Street is the signature Isamu Noguchi sculpture, Portal, a massive black coil of steel pipe. The resultant overall visual character of the complex is of contemporized Brutalism.

In 1995, to relieve severe housing pressures on the original Correction Center, an addition, known as Jail II and designed by Robert P. Madison, was erected to fill out the southwesterly portion of the city block. Jail II, with its pale blank wall faces punched by a regular grid of small square openings, breaks from the design of the original complex.

Within the last decade, increased security measures and access limitations have made The Justice Center decidedly less friendly and approachable to the citizenry, and have undercut the benefits of its atrium and plazas.

Hub creator Rick Zimmerman writes regularly about architecture and sustainability and populates rickzworld.


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