The architecture of courts in Portugal and Scotland

Peter Robson, Patricia Branco, Johnny Rodger

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The past century has seen a significant expansion of dedicated courtroom buildings in two separate but comparable countries, Portugal and Scotland. The architecture of both countries embodies different national and civic values. In the case of Portugal, two particular types of building are encountered with design driven by the varying demands of central Government. The first of those types comprises structures erected during the period of the dictatorship from 1926 to 1974 with a stress on the nobility of justice through monumental buildings with accompanying decoration and symbols of justice. The more recent period has seen a less homogeneous approach with both purpose-built and adapted buildings often providing spaces of mediocre quality, limited decoration and justice-related symbols. In Scotland the earlier 19th century buildings followed the design preferences of local professionals and what was produced were, for the most part, either classical Greek temples of justice or neo-Baronial strong houses of the law. In both cases the buildings were typically unadorned by symbols of justice. Recent centralization has altered that flexibility. In the 21st century in both Portugal and Scotland the expressed need to reduce expenditure on such public services, through the device of court reform, is in danger of altering the role of the courts as expressions of national or civic spirit. Here governments are seeking to economize in a way which contrasts with more expansive and design-centred approaches taken in such countries as France and the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on Law and Courts
Place of PublicationCheltenham
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Portugal
  • Scotland
  • court buildings
  • courts

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