The Chief Public Defender of Marion County challenged us. He said, “We are a public Agency, nothing fancy, but we have an idea, and we want better working space." His challenge was to move his juvenile division from downtown Indianapolis to a previously abandoned school, which our firm had recently converted to become the 37 Place Community Center. The 1957 two-story addition to this 1920’s school was unoccupied. The “big idea” was attractive to the Agency because the juvenile court/detention center is located immediately adjacent to 37 Place. Working with a City Council approved budget, we committed ourselves to create great architecture for a government agency, an architecture that inspires and promotes top-notch staff retention and recruitment.
The entire space was stripped down to the cast-in-place concrete structure, and left exposed. To enhance the illusion of height, the structure is painted white, and the old school utility tunnels accommodate our MEP needs, eliminating exposed ductwork and wiring. Attorney’s offices are arranged on the exterior walls, laid out on the rhythm of the existing ribbon window mullions. Paralegals are arranged in the next layer of offices. The paralegal offices are frameless glass walls and doors along the corridor, making the offices feel larger. Work Rooms, Conference and Social spaces are arranged as a central core creating a true hub of collaboration. To provide color, and as a space saving design, all Attorneys have solid core Birch sliding doors, painted with high gloss red car paint. The red doors close to a full height double steel angle door stop, which creates a continuous red panel in the teaming area outside the office entries.
The design incorporated space for 50 legal staff, when they had a total of 27. Within one year the Marion County Public Defenders have outgrown their space. Architecture can change cultures. Case closed.