International Criminal Court
by Schmidt Hammer Lassen


Danish studio Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects have won a competition to design the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Located in dunes close to the sea, the project will consist of square towers clad in a composite material normally applied to race cars and windmills.

Gardens will extend into the main tower, including plants from each of the International Criminal Court member states.

Here's some more information from the architects:

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ design wins the competition for the International Criminal Court in The Hague

After years of accommodation in temporary premises, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has revealed its design for new permanent headquarters by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects (SHL). The Danish office was selected in a prestigious architectural design competition with a twenty strong international shortlist including David Chipperfield, Mecanoo Architecten, OMA/Search, Ingenhoven, Wiel Arets, and Kengo Kuma & Associates.

“To the victims, to their families and to the world, the ICC building must communicate respect, trust and hope. This building cannot be anonymous; it must have the courage to express the values and the credibility of the ICC,” says Bjarne Hammer, Co-Founding Partner and Creative Director of Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. He continues: “The building is designed as an abstract and informal sculpture in the landscape. This way, it becomes a backdrop for the ICC to communicate trust, hope, and most importantly, faith in justice and fairness.”

Located close to the North Sea, the new Court is placed between nature and city, set in the rolling dune landscape at the edge of The Hague. The main concept is the sculptural arrangement of buildings in the landscape and the design of a landmark that conveys the eminence and authority of the ICC while at the same time relating to a human scale. Schmidt Hammer Lassen´s winning design complies with a complex brief and captures the spirit of the ICC. The overall building form can be seen as an undulating composition of volumes on the horizon, reminiscent of the dune landscape. “It was evident that connecting the dune landscape with the edge of the city had a striking potential. By designing a compact building with a small footprint, we propose to return the landscape to the city,” says Bjarne Hammer.

According to the Architectural Jury, the design provides the ICC with a sculptural composition of square towers. The Jury quoted this approach as: “a very impressive and interesting architectural gesture and a great contribution to the city with an attractive integration into the landscape. This applies also for the idea of 'moving down' to the Court through the spacious staircase. The big and sharp incision in the landscape and the lower ground floor are very interesting elements. The inner atmosphere was confirmed as user-friendly, especially the spacious ground floor with beautiful daylight from above. This ground floor can be seen as an inner private park area which facilitates the interaction between all the ICC employees in a very pleasant and positive way.”

By making a sharp incision into the ground the building complex forms a contrast to the surrounding dune landscape. The architectural idea is to continue the gardens in the ground floor (parterre) level of the building, as a cladding of the Court Tower.

“Gardens have always existed as part of all cultures and all religions. With flowers and plants from each of the 110 ICC member countries, the parterre gardens rise up as a green landmark and a symbol of unity, regardless of nationality and culture,” explains Bjarne Hammer.

Environmental sustainability is a key criterion in terms of the building’s footprint and the selection of building materials. The facades of the office buildings are clad in a composite material selected for its suitability to the windy and salty local climate, ease of maintenance and security performance. The material is normally used in the bodywork of professional race cars and in the cladding of windmills due to its durability. The design has at this stage been assessed as BREEAM Excellent.

Facts about the International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Criminal Court (ICC), governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to end impunity for perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. The Court is mandated to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. As of 1 March 2010 the Rome Treaty has been ratified by 110 States.

The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system. The legal basis for the organisation is the Rome Statute adopted in 1998. Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

Client: The International Criminal Court (ICC)
Area: 46,000 m2, up till 1,200 work places
Construction sum: €190 million ex. VAT
Competition: 2008-2010, restricted international competition with a total of 171 applications


Royal Haskoning Nederland B.V.
Esbensen - Consulting Engineers AS

Interior design and art: Bosch & Fjord in collaboration with schmidt hammer lassen architects.

Posted on Monday March 8th 2010 at 12:27 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • golddigger

    SHL wasn’t the 1.prize design a year ago…they got the 2nd prize..
    ingenhoven architects won the competition..anyway they feel not comfortable to assign german architects with the planning.who had a much more open and transperant design.

    seen on their hp:

  • dooobs

    That’s a shame; an example of political tactics over architectural reasoning… Ingenhoven won this competition a year ago.

  • This challenges my thinking about the message a courthouse’s architecture is meant to convey by thinking of communicating to victims first and making statements about government power…well I don’t think it makes any statement about the source of authority other than plants from all over this small world of ours (sing with me, “its a small world afteral…”)

  • roady

    i’ve noticed that… what the hell is going on? is the court playing some games with the law?

  • Jürgen

    It seems the proposal got greenwashed. The big box in the middle was black in an earlier version of the scheme.
    Green solves everything!

  • Pedro

    Please, now every bulding and render is just about placing trees and “nature” inside them .. it might look trendy but is it real???

  • christian

    Really do like this but is its intention to be a botanical garden of justice?

  • flytoget

    This is good work. However, Ingenhoven´s proposal was way better.

  • Interested Party

    Would it be wrong to commit a crime just to be tried here?

    However i do have to agree with everyone else that this fashion of “internal greenery” is getting a bit old. If done well, it looks fantastic and adds a new demension to the design, but in some proposals it simply looks like the architect has “tacked” on some plants to keep in with the trend.

    In my veiw, making the courthouse lovely looking and pleasnt inside surely detracts from its original purpose, which is to dispense the law of the land…whereas this design seems to invite the accused to pop up to the courthouse, grab a coffee with friends and pick up some organic produce on the way out….

    A much better aproach would be a design that conveys the severity of the crime…something harsh with corners, spikey bits and a facade that says

    “thou is punished”

    rather then….

    “hello, my names dasiy and ill be your courthouse for the day”

    Just my opinion of course.

  • Heaven for lawyers. Green design is rocking everywhere.

  • Obscurity

    When it comes to the values and the credibility of the ICC, which the architects intended their project to be the backdrop of, faith in justice and fairness tend to be rocked since justice and fairness are more often than not bound to be culture-specific. My opinion is greeny architecture might make it easier to accept that reality.

  • sash

    wiel arets proposal was better

  • Points taken Obscurity and Interested Party, but I don’t think a greenwash in a cube is the answer. I guess I’m in with the crowd that might say there’s universal ways to express authority or justice or fairness that isn’t culture specific, and doesn’t involve a botanical garden.

  • INP

    igenhoven’s design lacked coherence.

    Why is function being so literally and superficially equated with aesthetic in the previous posts? Why not equate the naturally occurring purifying processes of nature with the intentions of such a governing body to filter contaminant in the international community.

    igenhoven’s design, however, is more suitable to the superficial analyses.

  • Because there is no commonly or widely understood linkage between the naturally occurring purifying the intentions of a governing body to filter contaminant in the international community…Clarity of intention and purpose I don’t think is superficial, but essential, especially if you’re trying to communicate transparency in a government entity and not opaqueness.

  • flytoget

    Ingenhoven´s proposal is much more versatile and boasts humility. Public realm is very well adressed.

  • jeanpierre

    First phase was a shortlisting for concept.
    Then, it went through feasibility, structure, cost, regulation, law rules, safety etc…glad to know SHL won the second phase.

    Ingenhoven was a nightmare with the over emphasized courtroom followed by the bunch of offices like 60’s housing building. It was an obvious translation of the program requirements, pretending to be united by their kind of flying pergola. Arranging floors with no subtility.

  • miguel

    what a cute international court crime!
    do they have cute little tropical fishes in aquariums?
    Is it really allowed to sit on the floor like showned in one of the renders?it looks to me too hippy for an ICC

  • Thomas

    Not credible building for a not credible institution. But a lot of money, in any case ;)

  • Tue Kappel

    “The overall building form can be seen as an undulating composition of volumes on the horizon, reminiscent of the dune landscape”

    Archibabble in the 3rd degree. It’s boxes, goddamnit!
    They do NOT undulate, they are boxes. arghh!