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Scholarship of Design
Who, Mies?:
Interrogating the Federal Center Courthouse and the Trial of the Chicago Seven
David R. Shanks
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This essay interrogates Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Center Courthouse vis-à-vis the events of the Trial of the Chicago Seven, which was held there beginning in 1969. In doing so, the essay reveals how Mies subverted the conventions of courtroom design and consequently disrupted the precise rituals and power relationships that comprise the performance of jurisprudence. Specifically, Mies removed “the bar” from the courtroom space, which typically divides spectators from trial participants, producing a Brechtian estrangement of the courtroom and of trial procedure that played out in the various forms of misconduct that marked the theatrical trial.

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