Ciutat de la Justícia by David Chipperfield



Here are a few photos, plans and elevations of Barcelona's new law courts complex, designed by David Chipperfield Architects.


The giant, nine-building complex, called Ciutat de la Justícia (City of Justice), opened earlier this summer.


See all our stories about David Chipperfield Architects in our special category.


Photos are copyright Christian Richters/VIEW.

Here's some info from the architects:


Barcelona’s new law courts complex breaks down the 240,000 square metre programme into nine buildings, four of which are linked by a continuous four-storey high concourse building. The project includes the design of all public, courtroom, and office interiors. The first of the buildings was completed in September 2007.


Previously, the various legal departments of the governments of Barcelona and l’Hospitalet were scattered in 17 buildings across the two cities, with functional frustrations for both users and employees. A new conjoined City of Justice aims to improve efficiency and allow working spaces to adapt and absorb the constant transformation of the judicial body as well as provide reserve space for future growth.


The site is at the border of the two cities of Barcelona and l’Hospitalet on a site which was previously a military barracks. It is located adjacent to both Gran Via, a major access route into the centre of Barcelona from the south, and Carrilet, an artery leading to l’Hospitalet. The position provides optimum accessibility to the city and major metropolitan routes on both public and private transport.


The principal proposition of the project breaks down the massive programme into a series of separate but interrelated blocks on a public plaza, giving a spatial composition that attempts to break the rigid and monolithic image of justice. The project also attempts to provide equilibrium to the relationships between the different working areas, public areas and landscape. A group of four large judicial buildings are situated around the perimeter of a linking concourse building. They generally contain courtrooms at ground floor and a further three floors. All of these floors are accessed directly from the concourse building, which acts as a filter. The concourse building also gathers people at the start and completion of their judicial visit within a central public room, which overlooks the exterior plaza.


Four other independent buildings comprise a judicial services building for l’Hospitalet, a forensic sciences building, and two commercial buildings with retail facilities at ground floor. A further building is planned to contain social housing. All nine buildings are conceived as formally restrained blocks with load bearing coloured concrete ‘cage’ facades. Each building has a different and contrasting, although muted, colour tone. The concourse building has a more free form plan with deep exposed concrete slabs and woven mesh screens in front of frameless glazing.


City of Justice, Barcelona and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain, 2002-2009

David Chipperfield Architects


Location: Barcelona, Spain
Competition Date: 2002
Completion Date: 2009
Client: GISA, Departament de Justicia (Generalitat de Catalunya)
Gross Floor Area: 241,520 m2
Design Architect: David Chipperfield Architects; Fermín Vázquez -b720 Arquitectos
Structural Engineer: Brufau, Obiol, Moya i Associats / Jane Wernick Associates
Services Engineer: Grupo JG Ingenieros Consultores / Arup
Lighting Engineer: Artecluminotecnia / Arup
Quantity Surveyor: Tècnics G3 / Tim Gatehouse Associates
Façade Consultant: Biosca & Botey / Estudio Marshall
Landscape Architect: Manuel Colominas / Wirtz International
Planning Architect: Estanislau Roca Arquitecte & Associats
Acoustic Consultant: Estudi Acústic H. Arau
Digital Imaging: Carlos Pascual / David Chipperfield Architects / b720 Arquitectos / Imaging Atelier
Models: David Chipperfield Architects / b720 Arquitectos / Miquel Llunch / Matthew Marchbank / Vista Models
Model Photography: Richard Davies
Photography: Duccio Malagamba / Christian Richters


Posted on Sunday August 9th 2009 at 12:02 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Joe

    it looks like it was designed and built in the 80’s

  • One

    what a mess at the entry hall,… Mr Chipperfield.

  • Kong

    I think he spent to much time in berlin.

  • The Big Black & White Zebra

    Chipperfield is one of my favorite architects…. but, this is poor.
    So poor… it hurts. What’s gone wrong?

  • Reinhard04

    I miss Chipperfields link between the exterior and the interior. The clean white entrance hall doesnt fit with the berlin style facades. Actually I like Chipperfields architecture very much, there is always diversity in the hard grid, but in a big scale complex like this, it isnt enough just to change the colours of the bulidings.

  • hj

    it’s like Hilbersheimer’s Vertical City has been shuffled around. a bit too anonymous and ruthless.

  • angry catalan

    I used to live next to this as it was being built. It’s not really as terrible as people around here say it is, but it’s kind of baffling why Chipperfield chose such a confusing scheme if his intention was making the complex more accessible to the average citizen. Plus the site is really complex. The complex faces Plaça Cerdà, a massive roundabout lined with commieblocks where two traditional districts (Sants, in Barcelona, and Sta. Eulàlia, in l’Hospitalet) seem to fizzle and dissolve into a really weird, massive non-place. So I don’t know. I guess it’s hard to work under strict height limits if the requested area is this big, but in a place like Plaça Cerdà/Gran Via a more open complex would’ve been smarter.

  • Katsudon

    Awesome pieces of sugar! I definitely love Chipperfield’s design and his suble work on colors. I also totally feel great with the master plan layout who balances perfectly the volumes and creates this city scale feeling.

  • MMA

    Makes “justice” look out of date and not willing. The 80’s are back? Hope not.

  • ac

    this is really…. boring?

  • Me

    Not very nice architecture concept…I agree with Joe…It’s a pitty…

  • Richie

    With the design route they’ve taken I think the facade treatment was quite important in distinguishing this as a cohesive civic structure, and unfortunately it seems to have come out looking a lot like a lot of fairly mundane 70s and 80s precast panelled tower office blocks. Chipperfield is usually all about subtlety though, so I’d like to see more of it (or see it in person) but making any real judgement on it.

  • kolohe

    so brutal..

  • absolute genius! So good.

  • patrick

    …reminds me of public buildings in Los Angeles mid 70´s.
    But they had much more space at that time.

    Spain´s loosing the overlook of their projects and architechture.

  • Martin

    Sounds like they’ve done a lot of attempting, only to fail on a depressingly epic scale. Bland and lazy architecture is not a suitable respone to a brief to create a ‘ City of Justice’. This is the architectural equivalent of a cheap poorly fitting off-the-peg suit being worn to a state function.

  • jean claude

    It looks very sad….and conceptually weak….I think there is a very slight difference between geniously brutal and just simplistic….This projetc has an interesting plan , but the volumes, the textures and the general urban presence are just miles away from what can be called an interesting architecture….
    I think Chipperfield has already explored everything possible in the field of puristic architecture, and now is time to go to something else

  • vla

    Who said time machines do not exist?
    Unfortunately, this one can only go back in time- 1950-1960s…

  • em


  • Dan

    Haha, Joke’s on Spain, Perhaps Chipperfield was trying to make a statement about their Judiciary system? Inflexible perhaps? Anachronistic maybe? If I had to go to court in a building like this, I would assume they already passed summary judgment…

  • Paul

    If this had worked, it would have been as a sort of “banzai” modernism: a monumental formal vocabulary applied to a loose, fragmented array of dwarf-sized midcentury towers. And that might have been pretty cool. As it is—as has been noted—the scale is too conventional. It just looks retardaire.

  • Lisa

    I usually like the subtility of Chipperfield’s work … but something is definitely missing here… perhaps a bit too simple for my taste…


    Simplicity and modesty as an exterior.

    Exiting and dynamic entry hall.

    Excelent city fabric.

    Very thoughtful

  • MMM


    Architecture is dead :-(

  • dude

    Considering the competition brief asked for something like 300 000 m2 of area i think it was a very smart choice to break it down into several volumes. Unfortunately the pictures above dont quite show how ‘playfully’ the blocks are scattered around the site. i hope better pictures will appear soon and show it in a more favourable light. I found the scheme to be extremely powerful in reality.
    The coloured facade – 14000 equal windows – is probably the biggest leap of faith any architect could take today. I feel like this deserves a bit of credit, considering all the extravagant options any architect has at his disposal today. one window, over and over and over and over….i think it has guts!

  • tony_miami

    I would have to say that this is a very good example of relying on the plan to dictate the final outcome. The volumes are fully expressive and playful in plan, but lack the same representative qualities in built form.

  • sc hu yl er

    I agree with dude.

  • RK_La

    The description states “…giving a spatial composition that attempts to break the rigid and monolithic image of justice” – how do you experience this? From a helicopter? The buildings look monolithic and brutalist to me… this is really poor. I almost wanted to see where the new buildings are in the first pic before realising that that is the design. SAD!

  • KDS

    This project reminds me of the setting for Jacques Tati’s smart/hilarious movie, Playtime (look it up on imdb). The film was a wonderful send-up of the impersonal, generic international style architecture that he saw taking over Paris in the 1960’s.

  • kid n play

    this scheme hasn’t progressed any discussions further from IM Pei’s work in the early 60’s with the exceptions of pastels….menacingly corporate

  • cg

    check this:

    it will make you change your comments…I hope
    330.000 sqm!!
    very nice

  • steph

    I agree!!!

    check out the link!

  • Katsudon

    That’s it! Check this link! Wonderful pictures that gives all the sense of this cubist eye-candy. It gives me a feeling like an american realist painting. Pastel tones, landscape perspectives made of city pieces, constrasts of shadows over flat soft colors… yummy to me.

  • K.

    After being familiarized with the drawings, models, etc… for several years I came excited on site.

    The scale was brutal, I´m still sad and concerned about what I saw.
    I found it deeply depressing. Maybe only the façades were guilty for murder.
    The pictures are far much better than reality.

    I hope I will never have to be back.

  • K.

    for those who have not visited the site, there is nothing playful in the boxes… nothing.

  • oliverpecha

    I don’t understand why my comment was dissabled.
    I agree with “K.” comment.

    I’m very sad that bulding will be there for so many years.