After years of dusty, dead slow construction, the new state Supreme Court Building in St. George is finally getting ready to make its case. The St. George courthouse is nearing completion, shedding its plastic netting and construction fences and revealing itself to the world. And it is a revelation, far more engaging and integrative into the fabric of the neighborhood than one could have feared. For years now, the busy facets of its facade seemed to bode ill for the finished product and the variety of materials and jagged lines of the structure looked garish and too aggressive. However, with the fences coming down one can see that there is a connection between the bulk of the courthouse and the nearby buildings, and that the materials blend in well with the 20th Century mix all around it. In addition, the placement of the courthouse behind the hillside park allows it to maintain a comparatively low profile for pedestrians on Hyatt Street. Even the odd rampart roofline, which looks a bit clumsy from the neighborhood behind the courthouse, has a certain appeal when viewed from the harbor, giving the St. George skyline a certain Gibraltar-esque quality. (The first two numbers of St. George’s telephone exchange, 44, by the way, refer to “Gibraltar,” so the analogy is apt.)
The courthouse was designed by Ploshek Partnership, which has, for some odd reason, recently changed its name to Ennead Architects.
This is the same firm that created the new entry pavilion to the Brooklyn Museum, the Rose Center at Hayden Planetarium and many other bright, innovative buildings going up in New York and elsewhere. A look at their website shows that they are very, very busy indeed.
A look at the rear aspect of the project shows that some problems persist. St. Marks Place is still an eyesore across from the courthouse with its string of haphazard and poorly maintained housing. The parking component of the project, the St. George garage, has been open for several years now and the leafy vines that soften its facade in the warm months become grey bristles in winter. And that special blight of Staten Island, frayed and tangled telephone wires, line the sidewalk.