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The architecture of justice: iconography and space configuration in the English law court building

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 August 2008

Julienne Hanson
Affiliation:
The Bartlett, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6QB, United Kingdom

Abstract

A series of changes is identified in the iconography of the English courtroom, which seems to indicate a gradual liberalisation in the architecture of justice. However, it is suggested that this masks a deeper continuity in the layout and space configuration of the law court building, which relates to the fundamental social programme which it has to fulfil. Configurationallyspeaking, the space of the courtroom, which appears so powerfully to integrate the actors in the courtroom drama, turns out to be ‘virtual’. Although the actors can see and hear each other perfectly well, they actually inhabit separate and mutually-exclusive physical domains. The locus of spatial integration is to be found in the backstage corridors of the law court which, it is argued, is the place where legal negotiations take place. Thus, though it would be theoretically possible to reproduce the social programme of the law court in a virtual reality courtroom, this would be at the expense of a vital generative function served by the building, which is to ensure that specific legal conflicts are resolved in the interests of a wider social justice.

Type
Theory
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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