The New Kununurra Courthouse

Iredale Pedersen Hook
Add to favorites

TAG Architects and iredale pedersen hook architects, architects in association

The New Kununurra Courthouse, Kununurra, Western Australia

The design of the new Kununurra Courthouse, on the site of the former courthouse, interprets local physical qualities to capture the uniqueness of Kununurra in a building that is dignified and welcoming yet establishes a sense of gravitas.

The architecture re-introduces the value of the regional courthouse with a civic, landmark building that will represent the local community and promote the role of the courthouse as a centre for dispute resolution.

The new courthouse was designed and built to replace the existing single court facility, constructed in the late 1970s.

The existing facility was a multi-jurisdictional court that had been in operation for about 30 years. It provided facilities that enabled court administration and support to the judiciary in both civil and criminal matters. The existing premises were under severe space and operational constraints, did not meet current needs and could no longer accommodate the growing demand for court services in the region.

The new facility has been constructed on the existing site and includes two courtrooms and an additional mediation/multi-function room. It has been designed for an economic design life of 50 years and incorporates the following facilities:

Two courtrooms including a jury courtroom and a magistrates courtroom

Mediation and pre-trial conference facilities

Jury deliberation area and support facilities

Trials and hearing support rooms

Judicial chambers and support facilities

Custody provisions

Courts administration – registries and public service counters

Public foyer and waiting areas, including secure outdoor courtyards

The new court complex has been designed to meet the following global objectives:

Be an operationally efficient and special purpose facility.

Deliver a culturally appropriate facility, to enrich the user’s experience of the building, regardless of the reason for their attendance.

Provide a court environment that is spatially and psychologically accessible and amenable to all court users.

To reinforce the element of ‘respect’ and to provide an environment that is more relevant (inclusive) and less intimidating to Indigenous people.

Enhance public perception of professionalism and operational effectiveness of justice infrastructure.

Be of suitable design and presence to emphasise the civic importance of a courthouse in the community and to have a positive impact on the aesthetics of the surrounding area.

Reduce environmental impact and bring social benefit to the community.

The architecture draws heavily on Kununurra’s geographic uniqueness, visible from the air and particularly visual when moving around the town. The contrast of the natural landform, embracing the ordered plantations and buildings is especially unique, combined with the close proximity of Kelly’s Knob and Hidden Valley. Both natural landmarks are visible from the site; they visually and experientially connect the community and visitors to Kununurra in a manner that is respectful and sophisticated.

The roof form of the building creates an immediate dialogue while creating a variety of volumes that respond to the program requirements for the interior spaces. The height of the roof is also carefully controlled to relate to the immediate adjacent buildings. External and internal materials used, reflect the layered and fractured nature of the landscape and introduce a materiality that is absolutely unique to Kununurra. All materials are generally pre-finished to reduce life-cycle costs wherever possible.

Sunshade devices control the heat load on the building while modifying the experience of the interior space. On the north-western facade the roof form folds down with large panels perforated with an image of Lake Kununurra. This provides a sunscreen that limits the direct sun and creates privacy to the judicial chambers and mediation suite. On the south-eastern façade a large external sunshade (brise-soleil) follows the form of the roof protecting the glass while changing the scale of the interior, creating spaces that are intimate or communal.

Building edges include continuous built-in timber seats of various configurations, enabling visitors to find a place of preference, to sit in large groups or find a quiet place alone. The brise-soleil dialogues with the seating and visitors, framing views to distant hills and local landscaping. A secure external waiting space extends from the main foyer and continues the undulating built-in seating, constructed of local stone, enabling visitors to enjoy a shaded outdoor space with filtered views to the sky.

The program called for a facility that was both welcoming and calming for all court users, particularly local Indigenous people. Stone-paved public foyers are lined with horizontal bands of natural timbers and local artwork, creating an engaging and contextual interior, immediately identifiable with the local community.

Courtrooms also employ natural timber linings but create a formal sense of occasion with a more uniform colour selection. Courtrooms are always connected to natural light, provided with controlled outlooks into private courtyards, and distant views of the sky and or trees. These spaces are calm and focused with high volumes and warm materials.

Both foyers and courtrooms reference the quality of space experienced in Hidden Valley through the use of carefully crafted material and spatial qualities.


The court complex has been designed to be an operationally and environmentally efficient “special purpose” facility that is culturally and symbolically appropriate. Key objectives are:

To enrich the user’s experience of the building regardless of the reason for their attendance.

To reinforce the element of ‘respect’ and to provide an environment that is more relevant (inclusive) and less intimidating to Indigenous people.

To reduce environmental impact and bring social benefit to the community.

Our design is based on a "triple-bottom-line" approach – i.e. economic, environmental and social sustainability. A sustainability matrix was initiated and monitored by the design team during the delivery process including value management workshops.

The facility has been designed to meet reduced life-cycle costs (minimum 50 year design life). Materials have been selected for their durability and low maintenance. Natural materials such as local stone and high quality pre-finished materials (internally & externally) are also utilised.

Due to the highly technical and demanding internal environment required for court functions, the building has been heavily insulated, sealed and pressurised to control the ingress of heat and humidity. External openings have been minimised and shaded, and high performance double glazing has been used.

Systems implemented include:

LED lighting on timers, motion and daylight sensors

BMS to remote monitor, program and adjust building services/systems

A/C systems zoned to minimise power consumption (both manual and run-down timers).

Sunshade devices control the heat load on the building. The undulating roof form folds down the north-western facade large with perforated panels providing a sunscreen that limits direct sun and creates privacy. The south-eastern façade utilises a large external sunshade (brise-soleil) that follows the roof form and protects the glass.

Local indigenous artworks have been fully integrated into the building fabric in an endeavour to minimise ongoing costs caused by vandalism.

The New Kununurra Courthouse