U.S. Court of Appeals

This award-winning renovation gave renewed life to a four-story, Beaux-Arts courthouse built in 1905. Comprehensive architectural, structural, and interior design services were provided to repair earthquake damage and to broadly enhance the building’s program and appearance.

In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the General Services Administration asked SOM to revitalize and seismically retrofit the landmark courthouse. The design solution included an innovative friction pendulum base-isolation system, which raised each of the building’s columns onto steel disks. This approach preserved the use of the existing basement level, while a novel installation technique reduced the cost of the project by over $7 million. At the time of its completion, the renovated courthouse was the largest base-isolated structure in the world.

SOM also refurbished courtrooms, chambers, and other interior spaces. The most striking change was the conversion of an interior courtyard—previously used as a mail-sorting room—into a law library. A new glass roof brings filtered daylight into the space.