The Spottswood W. Robinson III and Robert R. Merhige, Jr., U.S. Courthouse in Richmond bridges the city's historic commercial core, now being reinvented as a performing arts district, to the west and its governmental Capitol Square district to the east. The building presents a formal public entrance to Broad Street, as do the neighboring Richmond City Hall (Ballou Justice Architects, 1971), the Virginia State Assembly Building (Clinton and Russell, 1922), and the Virginia State Library (Craig Hartman and SOM, 1997). A 100-foot high north-facing atrium serves as a civic-scale forecourt to the seven-storey courthouse and office facility to the south. The strong, curved south facade fronting Grace and Eighth Streets presents an iconic face to the Capitol Square district and opens up the southern corner of the site to a landscaped public plaza to provide a setting for the adjacent St. Peter's Church (1835, 1854) and St. Paul's Church (Thomas S. Stewart, 1845). The curtainwall of the atrium turns a less formal face toward the commercial district; at night, the illuminated atrium and landscaped areas becomes a dramatic backdrop for the developing performing arts district.
The courthouse provides office functions on the lower four floors and courtrooms on the upper three. Public galleries facing the atrium lead visitors to the public functions and to the courtrooms. The judges' chambers are located along the southern edge of the building, where they enjoy dramatic views to Capitol Square, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia State Capitol Building (1792), and the Lewis F. Powell Courthouse (Ammi B. Young and Albert Lybrock, 1858).