True Green Cities/Celebrating Ten Years: Remaking a Federal Courthouse

Celebrating Ten Years!  It’s been ten years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. In this past year my career has come full circle with involvement in federal courthouses owned by GSA (General Services Administration). I was the Regional Historic Preservation Officer for the Pacific Northwest region of GSA from 2003-2006.  I learned an enormous amount about being the client, managing the Section 106 process and collaborating with agencies and citizens who have specific interests in our land and our buildings.  In this past year I have been the preservation architect on a Design Excellence remaking of Toledo, Ohio’s federal courthouse – the James M. Ashley and Thomas W. L. Ashley U.S. Courthouse.

The Ashley

The US Courthouse and Custom House of Toledo originally known as the Federal Building was built in 1932 and listed on the National Register in 2013.  It is a monumental Neoclassical Revival Style public building, built largely of local Berea sandstone.  It is significant under National Register criterion C, significant at the local level as an example of federal architecture and of the civic design principles of the City Beautiful Movement which we see demonstrated in the way that the East façade embraces the Toledo Civic Center Mall. 

The project includes restoring and reusing the historic Ashley, while adding an “Annex” to accommodate new courts programming. To design a compatible addition, we first identified the key character defining features of the exterior, the lobbies, how the Annex connects to the Ashley, the historic ring corridors, and the lightwells. 

The Courthouse is highly intact on the exterior and quite intact in its primary interior spaces such as the courtrooms, the entrance lobbies and the corridors, although there have been alterations to the office areas throughout its history.  

Our overall design approach to this entire project is in essence based on an historic preservation approach, beginning with the full rehabilitation of the Ashley. Maintaining the historic Ashley entrance as the primary entrance to the expanded courthouse complex has affected all of our design decisions, including respecting and restoring the historic entrances and lobbies sequence, and developing the program to equally reactivate the Ashley and populate the Annex. The original classical central entrance sequence bisects the building – with entrances on both the West and East elevations.  We see a ring corridor on each floor and the rectangular lightwells on each floor through the building.  Our approach is to primarily rehabilitate the building to meet today’s programming and security needs, with focused restorations of key spaces and entry sequences and processions, following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. 

GSA’s Design Excellence

The GSA Design Excellence program seeks to achieve top-quality design talent.  The Design Excellence Program includes a streamlined two-step architect/engineer selection process and the use of private-sector peers to provide feedback to the architect/engineer of record.  The program stresses creativity. It also streamlines the way GSA hires architects and engineers, substantially cutting the cost of competing for GSA design contracts.

Three teams had reached the final step for the Ashley which was a Design/Build procurement, where each team would spend up to six months developing Schematic Design for their option.  I was invited to join the team led by Whiting-TurnerBialosky Cleveland as the Executive Architect and William Rawn Associates last January.  We were awarded the project in October and are just completing Design Development submission.  It’s an exciting team, design and project, and a delight to be working with my GSA Historic Preservation colleagues again. I traveled to Toledo the two first weekends of last March before the world was put on pause.  And now that I am fully vaccinated, I am planning my next survey trip in mid-May.