George C. Young Federal Building Renovation
Design Achievement - Opened in 1975, an aging George C. Young Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse needed more than a facelift. The six-story, Late Modern structure had fallen to second-class status and desperately needed a strategic modernization to serve the evolving needs of its constituents and meet more stringent code and security standards. DLR Group's design made responsible use of public investment and achieved high design quality through an elegantly simple exterior addition in combination with clarifying interior renovations. The new exterior tower reorients the building to address an adjacent park and elevate it as a civic space. The tower also creates a new, iconic architectural identity for the building in alignment with its existing character. Interior renovations establish a new, dignified procession through clearly defined and organized spaces.
Scope Summary - The phased approach for this 202,000 SF renovation essentially stripped the building down to its core and shell. The scope included a full exterior restoration and new glazing, comprehensive HVAC upgrades renovations to achieve sustainability targets and LEED Gold certification, a new entry pavilion and stair/elevator tower, and a reorientation of the entry and procession sequence. The interior design added four new bankruptcy courtrooms and corresponding judges' chambers, and new spaces for the Clerk of Court and U.S. Attorney. DLR Group provided planning, architecture, engineering and interiors services.
Of the Late Modern or Sarasota style, the George C. Young Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (GCY) was erected in 1975 and is not yet on the Historic Register. It was originally conceived of as a very efficient but dense GSA multi-tenant building of approximately 187,000 BGSF over six floors and a full basement. While not a great example of the Late Modern style, the building’s detailed exterior skin presents much articulation and character.
The GCY building occupies a 1.65-acre site within an 8.92-acre campus on the western side of downtown Orlando. The campus also includes a new secure parking structure to the southeast, a new U.S. courthouse annex (opened in 2007) to the southwest, and a secure park to the northwest. The annex faces south, presenting the back side of the building to the park. Unfortunately, the physical condition of the GCY building in combination with the siting of the annex have positioned the GCY building in people’s minds as a second rate structure.
The campus superblock itself sits one block west of Interstate 4 and three blocks west of Orange Avenue, the major north-south arteries through downtown. It is bordered by the Parramore District to the west and the Central Business District to the east. The Parramore District is a transitioning area of Orlando, once defined by industrial, low-income housing and vacant lots. However, growth of the downtown core has steadily expanded to the west, spurring positive transformation. Significant structures in the area include the new Orlando U.S. Courthouse Annex, a new arena, and the adjacent Florida A&M Law School.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this $47.5 million project consists of comprehensive interior and HVAC renovations to accommodate four new Bankruptcy courtrooms, four new chambers, and Clerk of Court and U.S. Attorneys spaces. The renovation comprises removing all interior walls, ceilings, and HVAC systems down to the concrete structure, including removal of hazardous materials. New exterior elements include the replacement of the existing windows, new roof, additionally insulation, and the addition of a new west entry pavilion and stair/elevator tower.
The New Tower
After analyzing existing conditions, the design team determined that the addition of a combined entry pavilion, stair, and elevator tower to the exterior of the existing GCY building best resolves key needs. Several factors contributed to this conclusion. Neither of the two existing egress stairs (located toward the northeast and southeast building corners) meet current code standards, with inadequate handrail design falling short of the required egress widths. While the simplest solution would be to enlarge the stair shafts, the inflexibility of the building’s post-tensioned structural system makes this prohibitively difficult.
The design team envisioned the new stair as a sustainable commuter and egress stair increasing vertical movement in the building, particularly on the U.S. Attorneys’ floors and between the Clerks’ and Courts’ floors. Additionally it provides users with a unique visual interaction with the building exterior and park.
The existing undersized judges’ elevator located in the northwest corner of the building was deconstructed and the structural slabs reconstructed. These elevators were eliminated for two critical reasons: to maximize the design of the four new bankruptcy courtrooms and to meet the area requirements and segregated circulation patterns required in the GSA U.S. Courts Design Guide. The new judges’ elevator are larger and sized to accommodate maintenance/freight purposes and access to the roof.
New Entry Pavilion
The existing entry on the east side of the building was completely inadequate for the daily courts operations. Entry queuing space was undersized for today’s security needs and lacked a formal civic entry sequence. Also, the entry’s existing proximity to a major street undermined security setback requirements. Relocating the entry to the west side of the building resolves these issues.
The new entry pavilion and stair tower faces west onto the park while addressing Washington Street to the north. Pulling the tower westward away from the existing envelope results in a more harmonious intersection of old and new structures. The new pavilion design provides expanded interior queuing space with sufficient security screening, as well as overflow exterior queuing space on the entry plaza. Additionally, it enables a secure staff connection at the basement level linking the GCY building to the annex, as well as a new first-floor visitors’ connection between both buildings.
Activating the Park
The design opens the existing secure park for pedestrian access and activates it as a civic place. New park entries include a single entry from Washington Street at the north, and a proposed widened entry from Division Street at the west. These entries occur through breaches in the existing secure knee wall and fence system. A portion of the park was proposed to align with the new west-facing entry pavilion, and raised to the same grade as the interior walkway of the park.
The setback from Washington Street and positioning of the pavilion on the center line creates dual approaches to the entry pavilion, each with a strong entry sequence. This composition of the pavilion and stair tower at the western edge of the park and opening up portions of the western edge of the park now reposition the George C. Young building as the most important building on the campus, reinforcing the stature and importance of the US Bankruptcy Courts.
Exterior Form and Materials
The design restores the existing GCY building to its original design character, including a base/plinth restoration, cleaning and repainting of the exterior precast concrete panels, and new windows. The window frames will replicate the existing pattern and finish, but with a high performance painted finish. The glazing will be high-performance insulated units with low-e glazing and a slight tint, while allowing valuable daylight into the interior spaces.
The stair/elevator tower is conceived as a contrasting, yet complementary addition. Although the tower addition has a decidedly more modern feel, the design team, with GSA’s input, has been careful to integrate the GCY’s architectural language into the tower without fully replicating it.
The new tower’s color scheme reinforces the relationship with the existing GCY building and Annex. After studying several color palettes, the design team arrived at a solution cladding the tower frame in a light-colored precast that is brighter than the existing GCY building. A champagne-colored metal panel, similar to one used on the Annex, will clad the bridge element. This same metal color will be used for all curtain wall systems for the new entry pavilion and tower, and the new window systems for the existing GCY building. This choice establishes a consistent mullion color throughout the building. All glass used in the project will be minimal in color with a low-e coating to maximize transparency.
The strongly vertical western faceplate of the new tower features a tapered edge as it moves upward. This move references the pylons located at the four corners of the GCY building. The top profile of the tower also echoes the crenellation present along the parapet of the existing structure. These changes give the tower a more iconic presence in the Orlando skyline.
The base of the tower features a reveal that suggests an upward movement and registers with the scale of the entry pavilion. The roof of the entry pavilion is articulated and angled to reference the angular forms of the existing GCY building. Care was taken in the design of the mullion patterning on the new stair tower to be sympathetic to the proportions of the fins on the GCY building. Also, the articulation of the plinth and entry pavilion incorporate a subtle version of the folded language of the existing building and new tower element reappears in the plinth and entry signage piece.
The design completely transforms the interior experience from the original 1970s office building into a spatially-motivated and enhanced user and visitor experience. The design implements three major ideas: clear and well-defined public spaces with a strong sequence from the entry to the courtrooms; introduction of natural daylighting; and the use of high contrast interior finishes to create dignified spaces.
Drawing upon the symmetrical nature of the existing GCY building, a main public east-west corridor bisects the main elevator bank on each floor. On the first floor, this corridor connects directly to the new entry pavilion. Here it creates a new processional sequence into the building and serves as the main building lobby, with care taken in defining appropriate spatial proportions and height. On the courts floor, this corridor serves as the final part of the procession into the courtrooms.
Unlike the original building (with its dense plan, little natural light, and no sense of the exterior), the renovated spaces exhibit a planning logic that builds upon the idea of the east-west corridor and its connection to the exterior. On the courts floor, the idea of a clear and simple circulation element expands to the secure circulation around the courtroom. Staff corridors track around the east and west building perimeters, harvesting light and views. A slight adjustment or “flare” in the intersection of the east-west staff corridors allows light to penetrate deeper. The judicial chambers are located at each corner of the building and arranged in a linear plan, which allows light to enter each supporting room. A transparent feature clearly marks the entry to each chamber and allows the exterior light to pass via the interior staff corridor.
A high contrast color palette both upholds the dignity of the courts and reinforces perception of a brighter interior. In general the floors are the darker materials: slate color tile in the public spaces and rich, dark natural brown carpet in the office and courtrooms. Walls and ceilings are predominantly off-white with the introduction of a light natural walnut used on the lobby walls, courtrooms, millwork, and interior doors.
Award of Merit
American Institute of Architects (AIA) Orlando