The Atlanta-based architects who won the design competition for the court building produced a Beaux-Arts classical showpiece inspired by late-nineteenth-century City Beautiful ideals. The symmetrical exterior has semicircular end walls that enclose courtrooms. White Georgia marble sheathes the first two floors; the upper two floors and the entablature are faced with glazed white terra-cotta. Ornamentation is rich and abundant, including marble brackets, terra-cotta pilasters, garlanded cartouches, upper-floor windows separated by two-story-high Ionic columns, and an ornate terra-cotta balustrade that surrounds the low-pitched roof. A grand staircase leads to the Royal Street entrance lobby, which is surrounded by twelve columns supporting the thirty-foot-high ceiling. The single-height Chartres Street lobby features a magnificent curving double staircase. The courthouse was controversial when built, denounced not only for causing the demolition of an entire block of nineteenth-century buildings but also for being too large and out of scale with the Vieux Carré. Its dazzling marble and glazed terra-cotta exterior has been criticized as flashy and thus incompatible with the muted tones and soft textures of the Quarter’s brick and stucco buildings. In the 1950s, at the suggestion of architect Richard Koch, magnolia trees were planted around the building in an effort to hide it. In 1958, the Supreme Court moved to a new courthouse (since demolished) in the Civic Center and this building had a variety of tenants, including the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, before being abandoned in the 1980s. Beginning in the 1990s, it was slowly renovated to serve again for courts. Some unfortunate design decisions, particularly reglazing with heavily tinted glass, detract from the building’s integrity. Despite all the former objections to its physical appearance, the courthouse reinforces the Vieux Carré as a living urban organism, able to encompass buildings that reflect all eras of its existence rather than being preserved in (nineteenth-century) aspic.
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Louisiana Supreme Court and Orleans Parish Civil District Court (Louisiana Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals)
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