Passengers arriving in Hasselt by train see the new court of justice building straight away and sense that something new is happening here. The trend towards upgrading properties adjacent to railways is actually becoming quite widespread in Belgium, as is also seen in developments in various cities including Ghent, Leuven, Sint- Niklaas, Antwerp, and recently also Hasselt. In 2001, West 8 developed a master plan for Hasselt which breathes new life into the city. The court of justice building plays a key role in this plan and does so beautifully in terms of design as well as functionality.
The building has a public wing consisting of a plinth of six floors, housing the chambers reserved for sessions of the court as well as the library and offices. Analogous to the growth of a tree, an upper section of the building, reserved for the office of the public prosecutor, rises up from the middle of this plinth. The analogy to a tree is rooted not only in the history of the city itself, which has a coat of arms bearing three hazel trees, but also in the many allusions to trees in jurisprudence, e.g. the tree under which judgement is handed down, the tree of life which gives one a second chance, etc. This upper part of the building is very visible in all its facets to the residents of the city. Its height makes it visible from almost anywhere in the city, and the geometry and pattern of the outer façade seem to give the building a different appearance depending upon the direction from which it is seen.