Inscriptions are in an important aspect of this federal courthouse similar too many government buildings in democracies dating back to Athens (6). One important inscription is on the wall in the jury waiting room consists of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' characterization of the American Constitution:
it is an experiment, as all life is an experiment… While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death” (6).
Holmes' words, like thirty others in and around the building, lead visitors to think about the role of justice in democratic societies. Other quotations are taken from American Presidents, important figures in the legal community, State Constitutions, the U.S. Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence.
While all those quotes were placed to generate a conversation around justice and democracy, there are also inscriptions of individual names. Specifically, there is a wall dedicated to the designers and builders of the courthouse. This list, or registry of builders, was created to honor those who worked hard to advance “the interest of man on earth” (6). The more than 2,500 names carved into the wall represent everyone, from those who drew the concept to those who placed the brick (3). This building commemorates many more people than just the one man after whom the it is named.
Two other aspects of the Moakley courthouse make this building unique compared to other federal buildings and those in Boston. It incorporates public art and the historic Boston Harborwalk.
In the realm of art, the courthouse contains a permeant art theme throughout the building called the Boston Panels, which were created by Ellsworth Kelly (1). They are large portrait or landscape paintings that have the entire canvas painted a single colorful color. There are two on each floor and many in the spiral going up to the ceiling in the center of the building.
There is also a rotating public gallery throughout the building where Boston area artists can display their work. Subjects of the paintings have to deal with judicial, maritime, and Boston history to be placed in the building. Although there is a security check, the building is open to the public and therefore anyone can access these Boston related works of art.
The other unique aspect is the Boston Harborwalk which is an initiative taken up by the City to preserve the history of Boston’s harbors (1). The courthouse sits on the edge of the Boston Main Channel and the Fort Point Channel giving it a close seat to the history of the Harbor. In conjunction with the harbor initiative, the courthouse preserved the original harbor docks and placed placards with passages of the harbor’s busy history along the two-tenths mile of coast on which it is placed.
Influential government officials and powerful decision-makers that can change the future work inside the courthouse, yet, the building itself has made large steps to preserve and honor Boston’s role the country's already established history. This is the courthouse that heard the charges against celebrities involved in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. It is also the courthouse that respects those who give their life’s work to the public interest. The John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse is unique for its architecture, its commemoration, and its celebration of Boston.