PPS and GSA’s Public Building Service are longtime partners working to achieve great federal public spaces.  On April 28, 2011 from 10am – 12pm, PPS and GSA are facilitating a presentation and discussion featuring Justice Albie Sachs, a founding member of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, in Dayton, OH. The event will take place at the Auditorium at the Montgomery County Administration Building located at 451 W 3rd Street, Dayton, OH. The event is free and open to the public. (Seating is limited – please RSVP to Andrew Lappin at alappin@pps.org).

Justice Sachs will discuss the innovative design of the new court house building–which is a model and symbol of openness and transparency–as well as the challenges in establishing a sense of restorative justice in South Africa. Following his presentation, a panel of leaders from Dayton will respond to his comments as a way of opening up a dialogue with the audience around the importance of public spaces around federal buildings and the “Architecture of Place.”

Justice Albie Sachs

Justice Sachs, a civil rights lawyer and political and cultural activist, who was twice detained in solitary confinement by the apartheid authorities and was a victim of a car bomb, has gained world recognition for his support for reconciliation and his role in helping to create South Africa’s new constitution.

Currently retired from the court, Justice Sachs played a key role in developing a different process for building a new court building that would represent the authentic values of the country, tap into the talents of its citizens and result in a strong sense of community and place in Johannesburg. The site chosen was the Old Fort Prison, where both Gandhi and Mandela had been locked up. He wanted the new building to be welcoming, open and comfortable and engender a sense of pride to all South Africans. He felt strongly that even the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens should be able to feel a sense of wonder and awe about their new country without feeling oppressed by the overwhelming authority that large and magnificent public buildings often have on the human psyche.  The new building was opened in 2004.

Constitutional Court building, Johannesburg, South Africa “This is the most beautiful court building I have ever seen.” said US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The result is one of the most impressive public buildings in South Africa, maybe the world. The combination of art and structure are so woven together and so integral to the building that that they have become one and the same. Local artists and people with long held expertise in different crafts were responsible for bringing character and a sense of local ownership to the building. The pieces of art create special zones within the building, and the flow of spaces with carefully thought-out rooms are used to help people to feel comfortable and deeply aware of the broad change that happened from apartheid to today in a country that has become a remarkable example of how fundamentally a country can change in a few short years.