Analysing courthouses’ spaces, places and architecture: Some methodological outlines




Courthouse buildings, visits to courts, photo tour, field diary


The aim of this article is to retrospectively reflect on my experiences conducting research on the intersections between courthouse architecture and access to justice in family and children's matters. This raises methodological and practical issues motivated by the novelty of the theme, as was the case when I began my doctoral research approximately 13 years ago, in Portugal. Therefore, I will discuss the strategies adopted and the instruments I used within a qualitative methodology framework. I will particularly focus on the following methods: 1. visiting courthouse buildings, in order to examine, among other elements, localities, façades, courtrooms and other areas and spaces; 2. photographing the different angles/spaces, and 3. writing down a field diary with all my observations of the trips, visits, and encounters. This article traces the early preparations for selecting the courts to visit, how I got to the selected courts, what it was like visiting and photographing such buildings, and some of the difficulties I encountered. In the concluding section, with the benefit of hindsight, I offer reflections on what I would have done differently.



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Author Biography

Patrícia Branco, CES-UC

Patrícia Branco is a researcher at CES-UC, integrating the Thematic Line 2 - Democracy, Justice and Human Rights. She is a researcher hired under the Scientific Employment Stimulus Program (CEECIND / 00126/2017), with the research projet «FORK. Food, Regulation, Kinship: considerations on contemporary law, families and parenthood through the lenses of food». She holds a PhD in Sociology of Law, within the scope of the "Law, Justice and Citizenship in the 21st century" program, from the University of Coimbra.


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06-07-2023 — Updated on 20-12-2023

How to Cite

Branco, . P. (2023) “Analysing courthouses’ spaces, places and architecture: Some methodological outlines”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 13(S1), pp. S278-S298. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl.1692.