“The careful restoration and extension of the heritage ACT Law Courts demonstrates the value of retaining and extending the life of existing buildings to new standards. It creates a new legal precinct that positively contributes to the public realm, urban fabric and community of Canberra.”

Carey Lyon, Director of Lyons

Judicial architecture has evolved to echo the pillars of the justice system, emulating equality, fairness, and respect for the integrity and dignity of individuals. The design for ACT Law Courts seeks to communicate these values, not only to the individuals that engage with the building, but with the broader community of Canberra. This project saw the integration of the existing ACT Magistrates Court and heritage ACT Law Courts to create a legal precinct that positively contributes to the public realm and urban fabric of Canberra.

It delivers a space that is at once elegant and functional, historical and modern, safe and comfortable. Our design for ACT Law Courts has made the court experience more accessible for all users, including some of the most vulnerable in the community. It prioritises safety for all parties while providing a welcoming environment that eases the pressures associated with the court experience. Standing as a symbol of the delivery of justice, our design maximises operational efficiencies, prioritises wellbeing and modernises.

  • Sector

    Courts & Justice

  • Key Lyons contacts

    Carey Lyon
    Adam Pustola

  • Client

    ACT Government

  • Location

    4 Knowles Place, Canberra ACT 2601

  • Traditional land

    Located on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people

  • Size

    18,700 square metres

  • Project status

    Complete, 2019


2020 Australian Institute of Architects Awards - ACT Chapter
    • 2020 Australian Institute of Architects ACT Chapter, The Romaldo Giurgola Award for Public Architecture
    • 2020 Australian Institute of Architects ACT Chapter, The W. Hayward Morris Award for Interior Architecture (highest honour)

“The successful integration of two existing and separate court buildings, one of which is of significant heritage importance, to create an integrated Law Courts facility is testament to the skill and vision Lyons brought to this complex project.”

Lloyd Esau, Executive Director, Major Projects Canberra

“In designing courts we balance ideas of justice with people’s sometimes challenging experiences. Everyone visiting or working in court wants to feel that they’re respected, safe, and have hope. There’s daylight and views from all space – even if you’re in a hearing, you can still look out to the city and landscape.”

Adam Pustola, Principal of Lyons

the city

Making public spaces
for everyone

Sharing our

Alleviating stress through design

Our design for ACT Law Courts creates a welcoming environment that eases the pressure associated with the court experience. The design of all public waiting spaces ease the tension and anxiety often associated with attending court. Dispersed seating allows groups to find their own space, while warm colours and textures, natural light and exterior views offer moments of reprieve. The idea of equitable access to the judicial system is manifest in the building and the civic forecourt. Court visitors arrive with a sense of welcome and clear wayfinding into a naturally lit and secure foyer featuring natural materials and the colours of the landscape. There is a high level of transparency into the foyer to create a sense of welcome, and the next step in a visitor’s journey is clear.



Colour, textures and integrated artworks commissioned from local artists combine to enliven the experience of waiting and negotiation while reducing anxiety and disorientation. Perhaps the most important spaces with design features intended to alleviate stress are the courtrooms. Designed with equality in mind, the courtrooms feature views to nature on all three sides, maximising daylight and opportunities for reprieve. The designated spaces for staff are interconnected, bringing together services that were previously isolated and allowing staff to share a modernised workplace and meeting rooms.

Designing access to safe justice

At the forefront of our design for ACT Law Courts was the need for a safe and secure environment for all visitors and staff. Design features maintain a sense of welcome and openness while optimising safety for the general public, representatives of the law and those who have been called to court. The courtrooms are the most complicated interior spaces, designed to balance security and dignity for all parties. A deliberately legible layout makes for an accessible and equitable space, designed to make all parties comfortable and secure. Other key design features that contribute to the safety of the building include the addition of a sally port that serves the basement level custody facility. The uppermost levels contain the conference facilities and judicial chambers, offering separate access to natural light and views to surrounds. The two middle levels of the building are designed to be accessed by public lift and stairs, while separate jury, custody and judicial lifts ensure the safety of all individuals.

Acknowledging history and establishing sense of place

The design integrates the project within the existing legal precinct around City Hill, making the court experience contextual for all users. The design communicates with Canberra’s built environment by establishing sightlines towards Black Mountain and toward the civic centre. Visitors can stand within the project and understand its place in the context of the city and its landscape. We maintained elements of the original heritage building built in 1963 and designed by Yuncken, Freeman Brother Griffin and Simpson. The new built form restores and renews the heritage building, framing it as a centrepiece.

Key Contacts

Related content