Johnson County Courthouse

Johnson County Courthouse

Johnson County, KS
Architectural Design, Civil Engineering, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Programming
Olathe, KS
Project type
New Construction
Fentress Architects, JE Dunn
BD+C New Construction LEED v4 Silver

An iconic community focal point

As a highly functional and sustainable public service-oriented facility, the Johnson County Courthouse is designed for a 75-year lifespan with the flexibility to adapt to future needs. The courthouse serves as an integral part of the justice system, as well as the center of the Johnson County community. From elections to marriage licenses, a courthouse is the central place where citizens participate in their local government and justice system. Some of life’s most challenging moments can also occur within the walls of a courthouse, making it essential for the design to recognize its impact on people’s lives.

Seeking innovation, growth, and resiliency

Johnson County’s existing courthouse was outdated, difficult to navigate, and lacked proper accessibility and modern security measures. The building also failed to address the community’s growing population. In 2016, voters approved funding to build a new courthouse that would raise the bar for judicial innovation in the community and nationally. The public was involved as much as possible through community meetings, presentations, and workshops throughout the design process.

Project goals

  • High-functioning, public service-oriented courthouse
  • Improved accessibility, security, and circulation
  • Sustainable high-performance building
  • 75-year lifespan with flexibility
  • State-of-the-art technology integration
  • Exemplary civic architecture
  • Efficient close-out, turnover, and occupancy
  • National recognition as an instrument of justice and service

It’s refreshing to see the renaissance that downtown Olathe is going through. The original courthouse was very outdated and not aesthetically appealing for commuters passing by every day. The new courthouse is a beautifully constructed building and a much more secure and compliant facility.

Monica Francis, Olathe Resident

Creating the heart of downtown Olathe

The project site is comprised of a three-block area master planned by the design-build team. It focuses on the connection between the current county administration building, the new courts building, and a public plaza all along the spine of Cherry Street. In addition to providing the county with a state-of-the-art facility, the new courthouse also supports the revitalization of Olathe’s downtown. The high-traffic courthouse brings residents to the downtown area, and the surrounding green space creates an inviting environment that encourages them to stay.

The new green space directly outside the courthouse’s main entrance is a focal point of the greater downtown area. The County plans to use the green space and plaza to host various community events such as art festivals and concerts. Creating attractive green spaces and providing views of nature within an urban setting are central features of the project, with its calming environment providing respite from the bustling activity within the courthouse. The space features native grasses, a water feature, and benches along the entry plaza.

Programming for all functions of the Tenth Judicial District Court

The 350,000-square-foot facility houses 28 courtrooms, including civil, criminal, family, veteran’s, probate, child in need of care, high-volume and high-capacity courtrooms. Support spaces such as judges’ chambers, jury deliberation rooms, jury assembly and judges’ breakout areas were included as well as the district attorney, court administration, and clerk of the court and court services offices. All courtrooms feature Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing the jury, council, and judges to access secure digitized evidence and other documents. In the corridors, digital court dockets display the day’s proceedings.

The facility also includes a secure below-grade parking garage with 41 judicial officer spaces and a secure in-custody transfer area. The parking garage includes a tunnel extension from the Olathe Central Booking and Adult Detention Center to the new courthouse for movement of in-custody detainees.

The courthouse reflects the past, present, and presumed future roles of the courts as a functional, historic, architectural, civic, and symbolic entity in Johnson County.

Monumental and durable: interior design features

Focused on providing a welcoming and calming environment, a sense of transparency is projected by the open lobby at the public entrance and a glass public corridor. Circulation separates staff, public and in-custody movement within the building and state-of-the-art technology provides clear wayfinding to guide visitors to their destination. Security at the main entrance is designed with a glass walkway that allows visibility on all sides, making the process less invasive and intimidating.

The multi-story entry fills both levels with daylight, and comfortable seating areas are available to the public outside of high-traffic courtrooms. Artwork such as the “Lady Justice” statue can be seen on the second floor, and the vibrant and colorful “Open Prairie” piece hands in the entry of the courthouse. Artwork was funded by the county’s public art program.

Johnson County Courthouse exterior
Johnson County Courthouse interiors

Kansas-inspired exterior design features

The main entrance of the courthouse features a curved limestone wall, sourced locally in Kansas. The shape mimics a covered wagon, paying homage to the European immigrants who settled the American prairies. The overall patchwork design also mimics aerial views of the region’s farmlands. This same limestone carries into the interior design of the building, with the windows providing daylight and views of the exterior entry and green space from the second floor.

As a resident of Johnson County, I’m thankful and proud to have access to such a beautiful space that helps citizens go about their daily lives.

Andy Buchwitz, Johnson County Resident

Ready for what the future holds

The Johnson County Courthouse stands as an icon of justice, community, and the future. As a LEED Silver Certified facility, it will serve the expected growth of 10,000 residents annually with high performance and efficiency. Both today and 75 years from now, the courthouse will be the center of Johnson County’s community and justice system.


  • 2023 American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design
  • 2021 Award of Excellence – Top Project, AGC of Kansas
  • 2021 Project of the Year Citation Award, AIA-AAJ
  • 2021 Institutional Subcategory, DBIA Mid-America Region
  • 2021 Project of the Year, DBIA Mid-America Region
  • 2021 Best Projects, ENR Midwest
  • 2021 Mid-Rise Building Category, Kansas ACI
  • 2021 Capstone Award, Kansas City Business Journal

Project contact

Jeff Lane


Related projects

Johnson County Youth & Family Services Center

Olathe, KS

Related content