Historic restoration meets innovation in perfect harmony.



Little Rock, Arkansas




396,000 square feet
Registered Silver Project


AIA National Justice Facilities Design Award

When constructed in 1931, the historic federal courthouse contained the majority of the federal offices in the city and two courtrooms. By the 1990s, it became necessary to expand and remodel the building to provide for nineteen judges and their staffs.

WER began the initial design and fieldwork in 1999 and construction on the project in 2003. This project was multi-phased over a five-year period to help keep the courthouse opened during the extensive renovations and addition, which included an addition to the building, remodeling of the old building and restoration of a number of principal historic spaces.

Ultimately, the goal was to extend the blend of prominent buildings and landscaping exemplified in the annex down Capitol Avenue from the downtown core out of the Capitol itself. In this sense, what is begun with this project becomes a model for a procession of architecture and green space that ties the city center with the domed profile of the government center.

State-of-the-art telecommunications and environmental systems, concealed from view in access floors, ensure flexibility. Beneath the removable floor tiles, power, telephones, computers, fiber optics and other key support systems can all be adjusted, adapting easily to the needs of specific trials and evolving technologies. Low energy lighting, HVAC and other high performance building, operating and maintenance systems are the norm in the courthouse.

Richard Sheppard Arnold US Federal Courthouse

The height and materials of the annex addition echo the features found in the original courthouse – five stories with a main façade detailed with a granite base and limestone walls. Out of respect for the older edifice and to grace the courthouse with a public open space, the main façade of the annex is pulled back from the street.

Richard Sheppard Arnold US Federal Courthouse

“WER’s project team was challenged with numerous complexities in completing this multi-phase project, from integrating the architecture and the structure of the new annex building with the existing courthouse, through the four renovation phases of the occupied historic courthouse, along with adherence to environmental, energy-conservation and historic preservation requirements. During this most complex and long-term project the quality of WER’s work product, adherence to design schedules, and quality of their construction phase services was key to the success of this project.”

Thomas Norman
Project Manager, Building Design & Construction
U.S. General Services Administration