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The New Johnson County Courthouse opens in Olathe, Kan.

Government Buildings

The New Johnson County Courthouse opens in Olathe, Kan.

Fentress Architects, in collaboration with TreanorHL, designed the project.

By David Malone, Associate Editor | February 9, 2021
Johnson County courthouse exterior

All images courtesy Fentress Architects

The new $193 million, 356,831-sf Johnson County Courthouse officially opened on January 7. The building incorporates 28 new courtrooms, flexible space for six to eight additional courtrooms, a Law Library, Court Administration, a District Attorney office, Court Clerk, a Help Center, Court Trustee, Justice Information Management, and a Sheriff’s Office.

The courthouse blends modern architectural features with traditional elements to create a facility that will serve the community for the next 75 years, accommodate the expected growth of 10,000 residents per year, and fulfill the county’s goal to reduce energy by 30%. A limestone-clad screen wall acts as a major design detail and defines the main entrance. The “Emporium of Justice” serves as the facility’s main entrance and lobby where visitors pass through security.


Johnson County Courthouse entry


“The ‘Emporium of Justice’ is an innovative design feature that was incorporated into the building’s architecture to create a truly open, accessible, and convenient environment for the community,” said Curtis Fentress, Principal in Charge of Design, Fentress Architects, in a release. “This two-story space provides easy access to the most used public services, creating a highly intuitive and user-friendly experience.”

The lobby contributes to the transparency in government by making public functions visible to visitors from both the first and second floors. This element was designed to provide visual connection and quick access to the most frequently used public spaces.


Johnson County courthouse lobby


The Jury Assembly space connects to the community room, which features a variety of seating options and an outdoor terrace. Jury Deliberation suites feature floor-to-ceiling glass.

The basement features direct vehicle access for in-custody transfers, as well as an underground tunnel that connects the courthouse to the Central Booking Facility. The basement holding areas are connected to secure elevators for private transfer of prisoners to temporary holding areas between each courtroom.

The third level is entirely dedicated to the District Attorney office and features open workspaces with access to natural daylight. The reception area was designed to be a modern, calming space, anticipating visitation by victims and witnesses. Collaboration and meeting spaces are scattered throughout the floor.

A glass curtainwall and punched windows create a seamless transition between outside and inside throughout the building. Terrazzo floors, glass handrails, acoustical plaster ceilings, and custom millwork contribute to the courthouse’s durability and monumental image.


Johnson County Courthouse facade


Sustainable elements include generous daylighting, water-efficient plumbing fixtures, the reduction of heat island effect through thoughtful selection of roof membranes and exterior materials, energy efficient systems, durable materials, low-emitting materials, and flexible design for future adaptation.

JE Dunn was the project's general contractor.

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