United States Federal Building and Courthouse

Tuscaloosa, Alabama / United States of America

The Courthouse’s atrium provides a public space that celebrates Tuscaloosa’s civic life, its history, and the dignity of the United States Government. Residing at the building’s heart, it is the first major space encountered, organizing an array of program and courtrooms and orchestrating movement between two floors. At ground level it suggests a street; open to the clerestory-lit gallery above and enclosed by the firmament of its beamed, stenciled ceiling. Its elements are restrained, but upon ascending a stair with railings recalling both Mies and Greek Revival precedents, visitors emerge through a pair of Ionic columns into a pilastered hall embellished with classical ornament and a series of sixteen narrative paintings depicting the history of Alabama and the presence of the Courts; their figures actual residents recruited by the artist.


Ornament is derived from Athens’s Erectheum, conforming precisely to the dimensional module that governs the overall building design, allowing economy in fabrication and giving expression to the rule of law that the building serves. Painted detail was hand-applied: A dignified palette of plaster, local marble and terrazzo recall Washington’s federal buildings. Here, order and tradition give voice to a community firmly rooted in a specific place and culture.

Architect of Record

HBRA Architects, Inc.


General Services Administration

General Contractor

BE & K Building Group


  • MBA Structural Engineers, Inc
  • MW/Davis Dumas & Associates, Inc
  • LBYD, Inc