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The Palais de Justice in Paris

Since the Middle Ages, Parisian justice has identified itself with the building surrounding the Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité. Over the centuries, the building’s capacity became insufficient and many offices had to be moved to different locations throughout the city. In 2010, a competition was launched for the design of “The New Paris Law Courts”, near the Porte de Clichy. This new complex would house courtrooms and judicial offices under the same roof. The historic site in Île de la Cité continues to host the Court of Assizes, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.

The competition for the new Palais de Justice was won by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, who put forward a different solution to the one requested by the French government, which specified the need for two separate buildings: one for public purposes, such as courtrooms, and the other for offices. The key idea in Renzo Piano’s design was to combine these spaces into one large building, capable of becoming a starting point for the regeneration of the Porte de Clichy area, through its size and status. In fact, the building is located in the new district of Clichy-Bartignolles, between Montemartre and La Defense, being based on an ecological approach, part of the Grand Paris project.

Work on the new Palais de Justice in Paris started in May 2015. The building occupies an L-shaped area between the city’s ring road and the Martin Luther King Park. Its statistics are impressive: 160 metres tall, an internal surface of approximately 110,000 m2, and the ability to accommodate up to 8,800 people a day. Its base is a pedestal with a predominantly horizontal development holding three non-aligned parallelepipeds stacked on top of each other, which create a stepped profile. The building’s entrance is through the square and leads to the public lobby where the flow of visitors is welcomed and directed to where they need to go. The atrium, which is 28 metres high, is flooded with natural light entering through the fully glazed façades and skylights. During the night, the atrium is illuminated with diffused lighting emitted by pendant luminaires  specifically designed for this project. The luminaires have been developed to provide a considerable amount of light that populates this vast space during the night. They feature two die-cast aluminium optical compartments with a plastic screen that diffuses light both up and down to minimise glare. Three rigid rods hold the compartments together and pass through a disk made of plastic material that emanates light thanks to a laser which helps spread the light emitted by the Underscore Ledstrip homogeneously across the entire surface. The spectacular design of these distinctive luminaires stands out during both the day and night. 

The sensation of an environment filled with light is further reinforced by the choice of interior furnishings, which are all made of light wood in neutral colour tones. The lobby provides access to all public spaces, including a meeting room, a café, public information services, as well as to the 90 courtrooms. Fitted with parquet flooring and evaporated beech wood panels, nearly all the courtrooms benefit from daylight which filters through the façades. At night, they are illuminated with the same kind of pervasive light, very diffuse and homogeneous given by the combination of Front Light projectors and Reflex recessed luminaires.

An in-depth study was carried out for the design of the outdoor spaces, which are located at different heights. On the eighth floor there is a 7,000 m2 garden terrace, as well as the staff restaurant. It is a space designed for walking, reflecting and informal meetings between those who work at the Palace. A real hanging garden joins those on the 19th and 29th floors, harmoniously intertwining the built and natural environments. At night, the building’s exterior spaces are illuminated by Maxiwoody projectors and iWay bollards responsible for ensuring safe walkways.
The building’s overall energy performance levels comply with the targets indicated in the Paris Climate Plan, as well as with the requirements stipulated in the 2012 thermal standards. The HQE certification (the French high quality environmental standard) is also underway. Energy is produced by both horizontal and vertical photovoltaic panels, which cover the east and west façades. Besides demonstrating the desire to use renewable energy in public buildings, these panels also give the building character through their specific luminous vibration.

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  • Year
  • Client
    Établissement Public du Palais de Justice de Paris + Bouygues Bâtiment
  • Architectural project:
    Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  • Lighting project:
    Cosil Peutz
  • Photographer
    Michel Denancé

Project Quote

"Light, transparency, and the sense of belonging to the city make up our language."

Renzo Piano, La Croix, 10 April 2018

Products Used: