The United states supreme court building*


The United States Supreme Court Building was designed by Cass Gilbert, one of the most significant American architects of the first half of the 20th century. Completed in 1935, it is one of the last significant examples of pre-war classicism in America. A product of a close and intense collaboration between Chief Justice Taft and Cass Gilbert, the final design was representative of the latest thinking in court planning and design, and was constructed using the finest materials and state-of-the-art systems. The quality of the building, along with the outstanding stewardship of the Office of the Architect of the United States Capitol (AoC), were the primary reasons why there were no major building campaigns for over sixty years after its completion.

However, by 1998, time had taken its toll and the Court was faced with a major renovation program to replace all of the obsolete building systems with new systems that were never part of the building's original infrastructure, enhance space utilization and create new off-site support areas, address critical life-safety issues, and provide new enhancements for the more than one million visitors annually.

In 1998, the AoC undertook a national search to select an Architectural/Engineering team for the Modernization of the US Supreme Court Building. Out of twenty-eight entries, the AoC selected the team of HillierARCHITECTURE (now RMJM) to lead a multi-year, multi-discipline, multi-phase renovation program. George C. Skarmeas was the Planning and Design Principal, leading this complex multi-year modernization initiative.


The planning and design effort began with a fact-finding phase (the Master Plan), which created a foundation to outline a series of initiatives, including an off-site facility, a below-grade addition and a comprehensive program of interior enhancements. At the conclusion of the Schematic Design, the court and the AoC convened a Peer Review to evaluate the recommendations of the design team. The Blue Ribbon Peer Review team fully endorsed the proposed plan.

In the aftermath of 9/11, several new security requirements were added to the project, requiring several adjustments in the design. The Plan was ultimately organized, planned, designed and executed in three phases. In the first phase, an off-site facility was created and non-essential functions were removed from the building. The second phase involved the design and construction of the below-grade support facility. The final phase - the renovation and modernization of the Supreme Court Building - was undertaken in four stages, one for each quadrant of the structure, allowing the Court to remain in operation during construction without any interruptions to the Judicial Calendar. The project was completed under budget in the summer of 2011.

This carefully orchestrated design and implementation plan was developed by the design team under the leadership of George C. Skarmeas, who maintained his involvement in this project for the entire duration.

* Project led by George C. Skarmeas as Design Principal and Director of Preservation Design Studio at HillierARCHITECTURE / RMJM (1996-2010)


Completed (2011)