In August 2003, GCK Consortium was awarded the job of designing and building a new court facility in the downtown core. A multidisciplinary team that included GWL Realty Advisors Inc., Kasian, NORR Limited and Montevideo-born architect Carlos Ott would deliver the largest court facility in Canada, boasting over one million square feet of court and office space.
The Government of Alberta painted a picture of the complex to guide the design team in their effort to imagine the future landmark: "A dignified contemporary facility, accessible to all, that stands in the community as the embodiment of democratic rights, individual freedoms and justice and the institutional independence of the judiciary as the adjudicator and protector of those freedoms."
The consortium came back with a design for two towers of 24 and 20 storeys that would be connected by one of the largest cold weather atriums in the world, where a system of mid-air pedestrian connections enhance access between the towers. Plans for a third tower were discarded during the design process, but the general architectural intent remained largely the same. Work then proceeded at the site along 5 Street SW as the existing buildings were demolished and provincial court services relocated to temporary facilities.
Construction of the 73-courtroom complex wasn't without its speed bumps. When excavating the site, crews struck a high water table, forcing the team to build raft slabs of concrete that covered the width of the two towers. A continuous pour required approximately 500 concrete trucks and took over 23 hours to complete. A flexible forming system was instrumental in the construction of the floors, with crews pouring a level every eight days. A customized self-climbing forming system using hydraulic lifts was also developed to allow the concrete cores to be built independent of the use of more than two cranes on the site.
The completed building employs a number of security measures relevant to the post-9/11 climate, including large steel bollards to prevent vehicles from charging at the complex. With more structural steel than the two Bankers Hall buildings combined, the building has been designed to withstand the collapse of two-thirds of its exterior columns.
The $300 million development was completed in 2007, three years after construction work began. It consolidated the city's hodgepodge of court facilities — five smaller buildings were scattered across downtown — into a single complex. The second phase of the project restored the Court of Appeal building, demolished the Court of Queen's Bench building, and constructed an urban park and 700-stall underground parkade.
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