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Dr Emma Rowden


Dr Emma Rowden joined the UTS School of Architecture in 2013 as a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Her background is in media, performance and architecture, and her research is strongly interdisciplinary. These perspectives inform her research into the role of the built environment in shaping experiences of inclusion, safety and comfort, as well as perceptions of fairness and respect in public institutions.

Emma’s current fellowship research project, Contested Visions of Justice: designing the space of law in Australia, aims to put Australian spaces of adjudication on trial. In charting, for the first time, a spatial history of dispute resolution in Australia this project will fill important gaps in the disciplines of architecture, history and law.

From July 2015 Emma will be a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics Department of Law for six months. During this time she will work with UTS Distinguished Visiting Professor Linda Mulcahy on the Leverhulme Trust-funded project Design and Due Process: Facilitating participation in the justice system.

Emma received her PhD from the University of Melbourne in 2011 for her thesis entitled ‘Remote Participation and the Distributed Court: an approach to court architecture in the age of video-mediated communications’. Her doctoral research was attached to the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project Gateways to Justice: improving video-mediated communications for justice participants. The recommendations made in Emma’s thesis have formed the basis for extensive and practical evidence-based design guidelines to improve remote participation in court proceedings. Emma also contributed to another ARC Linkage project, Fortress or Sanctuary? Enhancing court safety by managing people, places and processes, while at the Justice Research Group (University of Western Sydney) from 2011-2012.

Emma is currently a Chief Investigator of the ARC Linkage project: Just Spaces: security without prejudice in the wireless courtroom. This project will test for the first time under experimental conditions whether the dock jeopardises a defendant's right to a fair trial, with the aim to develop design protocols for human-rights compliant courtrooms.

Emma is an active member of the organising committee for the Court of the Future Network, an international research network that aims to facilitate discourse about the architecture of law courts between architects, researchers, judges, court administrators and policy-makers. The practical implications of her research are currently informing national court policy and architectural practice.


Society of Architectural Historians Australia & New Zealand (SAHANZ)
Court of the Future Network (organising committee)
Associate researcher of the Institut des Hautes Études sur la Justice (IHEJ)

Image of Emma Rowden
Chancellor's Post Doctoral Research Fellow, School of Architecture
B Architecture (Hons 1) [UNSW], B.A.(UNSW), PhD [University of Melbourne]
+61 2 9514 8091

Research Interests

Architectural Design
Public Architecture and Space
Architectural Theory
Architectural History
Design of Law Courts
Distributed Spaces
Communication Technologies and Architecture

Architectural Design
Architectural History and Theory


Rowden, E.L. 2013, 'Virtual Courts and Putting 'Summary' back into 'Summary Justice': Merely Brief, or Unjust?' in Simon, J., Temple, N. & Tobe, R. (eds), Architecture and Justice: Judicial Meanings in the Public Realm, Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey, pp. 101-113.
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Rowden, E.L. 2013, 'The Remote Witness Facility for vulnerable and child witnesses: new perspectives on an emerging spatial typology' in Branco, P. (ed), Sociologia do(s) Espao(s) da Justia: Diálogos interdisciplinares, ALMEDINA ces, Coimbra, pp. 161-183.
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For over twenty years courts have utilised video-mediated technologies, such as CCTV and videoconferencing, to access evidence remotely.1 It is widely accepted that use of videolinks has improved the quality of justice by obtaining better quality evidence from children and vulnerable witnesses, and by reducing the possibility of trauma (ALRC 1992; OGrady 1996; Burton et al 2006, 2007). Testifying via videolink reduces stress on children and vulnerable witnesses as they can avoid contact with the defendant, enabling some cases that without the option of videolinks may not have proceeded (ALRC 1989: 4).2 Previous evaluations emphasise the importance of preventing the witness coming into contact with the defendant and their supporters, and from being subject to their gaze (ALRC 1997; Burton et al 2007); however, such a focus perhaps obscures other important reasons that underlie the success of this new court procedure.


Rowden, E.L. 2013, 'A relic of barbarism: attempts to remove the dock from the criminal trial in New South Wales', Evidence of Bodies / Bodies of Evidence, The Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, UTS.
Examining a largely unstudied sequence of events in Australian legal, political and architectural history, this paper reveals a series of unsuccessful attempts from the 1870s through to the 1920s to remove the dock from the criminal courts of New South Wales. Attempting to distinguish NSW as a progressive society, a series of prominent agitators often described docks, with their spikes and bars that made the defendant look like a `caged wild animal', as `a relic of barbarism'. Concerns about the appearance of the dock itself, and its potential to prejudice perceptions of the defendant, overshadowed arguments for allowing the defendant better access to their counsel. Despite failing to abolish docks, substantial improvements to the treatment of defendants were achieved: allowing defendants a seat, preventing the use of docks for child defendants, removing spikes and lowering the height of the dock. It is argued that the radical campaign to abolish the dock was undermined by these civilising reforms, which merely made the dock more acceptable. Uncovering these forgotten campaigns is of considerable contemporary significance as debate continues to flourish on the use of the dock in modern day courtrooms, highlighting unresolved tensions between government and the judiciary over the authority to determine the space of justice.
Rowden, E.L. 2013, 'From spiked cages to Perspex: the dock on trial in NSW', Fourth Justice Environments Conference, Brisbane.
This paper begins by examining a little-known sequence of events in Australian legal, political and architectural history. From the 1870s through to the 1920s various attempts were made by members of the NSW Government and the NSW magistracy and judiciary to remove the dock from the criminal trial in New South Wales. Seeking to distinguish NSW as a progressive society, a series of prominent agitators often described docks as `a relic of barbarism. Given that many docks in NSW courtrooms of the time had spikes and bars that made the defendant look like a `caged wild animal, arguments to abolish the dock in order to allow the accused better access to their counsel were often subsumed by concerns about the appearance of the dock itself and its potential to prejudice perceptions of the defendant. Despite failing to abolish docks altogether reforms that were perhaps in no small part lost due to the gradual `civilising' of dock designs these pioneering court reformers did achieve substantial improvements to the treatment of defendants. Over this period, defendants were increasingly allowed to sit during their trial, docks were abolished for cases involving child defendants, and by the 1920s spikes had been removed from NSW docks and the front railings and balustrades had been lowered so that defendants, while seated, could see the courtroom unimpeded. Despite these late 19th, early 20th century shifts towards treating defendants more humanely, recent court designs would seem to be trending in the reverse. Still kept isolated from their counsel in docks, defendants are now facing further barriers to participation, not only in NSW but also in other jurisdictions internationally. Glass or Perspex barriers that frame the dock are gradually becoming more commonplace, particularly for trials involving terrorists and bikie gangs, and in some designs the defendant sits in a room within the wall of the courtroom. Even formerly progressive jurisdictions are succumbing to the ...
Farbstein, J., Wallace, A., Willard, J., Graecen, J., Rowden, E.L. & Bocchiaro, I.I.I.J. 2012, 'Video Technology and the Transformation of Tomorrow's Courthouse', National Association for Court Management (NACM): Annual Conference, Orlando, Florida.
Rowden, E.L., Taitz, M. & Vernon, A. 2012, 'Developing court security policy: what can we learn from the experiences of domestic violence victims attending court?', RGS-IBG Annual Conference, University of Edinburgh.
Rowden, E.L. 2012, ''The Gateways to Justice Project: operational and design guidelines to help improve video-mediated communications for justice participants'', Videoconferencing in Courts Symposium, Ecole de Droit de la Sorbonne, Paris.
Rowden, E.L. 2011, ''Courting the Virtual?' Remote Participation and the Distributed Court', Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology (ANZSOC) Annual Conference, Four Points Sheraton, Geelong.
Grant, E., Rowden, E.L. & Taitz, M. 2011, 'Evaluating the Cultural Responsiveness of the Design of an Aboriginal Court Complex for Aboriginal Users: Post Occupancy Evaluation of the Port Augusta Court Complex', Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology (ANZSOC) Annual Conference, Four Points Sheraton, Geelong.
Rowden, E.L., Wallace, A., Tait, D., Hanson, M. & Goodman-Delahunty, J. 2010, 'Gateways to Justice: Improving evidence by videolink - reporting experimental findings', Third Justice Environments Conference, Rydges World Square, Sydney.
Tait, D., Rowden, E.L., Wallace, A. & Goodman-Delahunty, J. 2010, 'Remote Sentencing: possibilities and pitfalls', National Judicial College of Australia Annual Conference, Canberra Convention Centre.
Rowden, E.L. 2009, 'Remote Justice Public Forum: dangers and opportunities for new technologies in courts of the future', Court of the Future Network: Victorian Court Architecture Tour, Victoria University, Melbourne.
Rowden, E.L. 2009, 'Virtual Courts: Here, There and Everywhere', Architecture and Justice Conference, Lincoln University.
Wallace, A. & Rowden, E.L. 2009, 'Gateways to Justice: The use of videconferencing technology to take evidence in Australian Courts', Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on e-Government, The 9th European Conference on eGovernment, Academic Publishing Limited, London, pp. 653-660.
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Videoconferencing technology is becoming a significant component of eJustice. Across the justice system many countries are making substantial investments in this technology for a range of uses, which increasingly involve the taking of evidence in legal proceedings. While the use of videoconferencing is most often justified on the grounds of cost-savings and convenience, there has been little in the way of research on its effects. What do we know about its impact on the witness who uses it? How is that remote witness perceived in the courtroom? How do they experience the court process? Will the giving of evidence remotely advantage or disadvantage the party who calls that witness? What criteria should courts apply when deciding whether or not to allow evidence to be taken by this method? Should there be different criteria for different types of witnesses? What protocols and procedures should guide the way the evidence is taken? This paper will report on the preliminary findings of a major three-year multi-disciplinary research project designed to improve the way remote witness technology is used in Australian courts. It will discuss the types of technology used, the extent and incidence of its use, the legal and procedural framework, and the design of the remote witness environment. In the past ten years since their inception, the design of remote witness facilities has changed little, reflecting the paucity of research undertaken in this area. We contend that the environmental context in which evidence is given is of great significance, and that a judge allowing a witness to give their evidence remotely cannot be certain that the current architectural and technological configurations will not be deleterious to a witness ability to communicate their position to the courtroom effectively. We argue that an exploration of the concept of `presence in virtual environments can provide valuable insights into the way in which the remote witness environment can be improved...

Journal articles

Rowden, E. & Jones, D. 2017, 'Design, Dignity and Due Process: The Construction of the Coffs Harbour Courthouse', Law, Culture and the Humanities.
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The discourse around the merit of public architecture often depicts the architect as having complete autonomy over its design. This belies the constraints placed upon creative solutions by design briefs or the intense negotiations between the State, the architect and the various stakeholders involved in the construction process. Through a case study examining the construction of a courthouse, we demonstrate the difficulties in pursuing improvements to the phenomenological experience of justice within these constraints. It reveals the need for architectural knowledge to be shared for the common good in order to resist practices that replicate existing conditions and inhibit innovation.
Rowden, E. 2017, 'Distributed Courts and Legitimacy: What do we lose when we lose the courthouse?', Law, Culture and the Humanities.
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While courthouses often reveal a profound gap between the professed ideals of justice and their delivery, their designs supposedly symbolize the authority of the community over the individual and lend legitimacy to the discipline occurring within. This article considers what happens to the experience and legitimacy of justice when legal participants no longer enter the courthouse, but appear remotely by videolink. Drawing on empirical evidence regarding the use of videolinks in Australian courts, this article reveals current iterations of distributed courts ignore the important symbolic function of the courthouse as the home of justice and the presence of law.
Mulcahy, L., Rowden, E. & Orr, K. 2016, 'Making Sense of Law: Pungency, Feel and Rhythm', Law, Culture and the Humanities.
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Wallace, A., Blackman, D. & Rowden, E.L. 2013, 'Reconceptualizing Security Strategies For Courts: Developing A Typology For Safer Court Environments', International Journal of Court Administration, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 3-9.
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There have been heightened concerns about security in courts in recent years, prompting a strong response that has largely been focused on perimeter security. This paper draws on recent research conducted in Australian on court users' safety needs, to propose a typology for designing safer courtroom environments that moves beyond the entry point to the court, and incorporates consideration of process and design elements.
Davison, G. & Rowden, E.L. 2012, '"There's Something about Subi": Defending and Creating Neighbourhood Character in Perth, Australia', Journal of Urban Design, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 189-212.
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Planning policy in Australian cities currently favours a more compact urban form, but proposals for higher-density development are frequently resisted by residents who argue that the `character of a place would be damaged or destroyed. This paper explores the factors underlying this resistance and assesses the extent to which character can be designed for. The paper relates a case study of the Perth suburb of Subiaco, where the design of a major redevelopment project was shaped by the form of surrounding areas, but where long-standing residents claim that it is `out of character nonetheless. Reflecting on the case through theories of place, urban design and `affordances, it is suggested that this rejection of the project owes much to the way that urban designers focused on replicating certain physical features of Subiacos character, while neglecting a host of everyday social and experiential meanings that were of equal significance to residents.
Rowden, E.L., Wallace, A. & Goodman-Delahunty, J. 2010, 'Sentencing by videolink: Up in the air?', Criminal Law Journal, vol. 34, no. 6, pp. 363-384.
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A United Kingdom pilot scheme - where defendants pleading guilty to certain offences remotely from a police station are sentenced via videolink - has sparked considerable controversy. Although attracting less attention, sentenc-ing by videolink also occurs in Australia. The enabling legislation contains few guidelines for the exercise of judicial discretion and little is known about the nature and scope of remote - or videolinked - sentencing, or its impact on the sentencing process and participants. This article presents unique findings from an Australian empirical study about uses of videoconferencing in the justice system. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 56 judicial officers, court administrators, court staff, justice department officials, prosecutors, witnesses and lawyers. Responses pertinent to sentencing reflected both the rationale for implementing remote sentencing as well as concerns about remote sentencing procedures. Results indicated that the use of videolinks can alter the nature of sentencing proceedings, but views that technology necessarily degrades the sentencing process or renders it less effective are overly simplistic. Attention to the configuration of the technology and participants, as well as protocols and procedures for videolink use can potentially preserve the essential functions of sentencing conducted remotely. Recommendations on ways to address stakeholders' concerns without compromising the critical features of sentencing proceedings are proposed.
Rowden, E.L. 2008, 'Waste Not', Monument, vol. 2008, pp. 32-38.

Non traditional outputs

Rowden, E.L. 2011, 'The fifteenth century court', Legal Architecture: Justice, due process and the place of law, Routledge, London, pp. 40-40.
Illustration that was published in Linda Mulcahy's 2011 monograph: "Legal Architecture: Justice, due process and the place of law" depicting for the first time an interpretation in plan view of court participants and furniture of the fifteenth Century courtroom based on the Whaddon Manuscripts. This illustration was created by Emma Rowden, in consultation with Professor Linda Mulcahy.


Rowden, E.L., Wallace, A., Tait, D., Hanson, M. & Jones, D. University of Western Sydney 2013, Gateways to Justice: design and operational guidelines for remote participation in court proceedings, pp. 1-127, Sydney.
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These practical working design and operational guidelines emerged from the evidence-base generated by the ARC Linkage project, Gateways to Justice: improving video-mediated communication for justice participants, and fulfills an explicit aim of the project. Aimed at court administrators, architects and the judiciary they map best-practice procedures for accessing court proceedings remotely, and set design guidance for the construction of remote spaces for court participation in courthouses and other remote sites. This work forms part of a burgeoning international research interest in both court design and the impact of distributed spaces on architecture. This output is innovative as it sets a new benchmark for the legible dissemination of qualitative research findings that are accessible to practitioners. The guidelines will empower court administrators and the judiciary to apply the research findings to tangibly improve the experience of justice for remote court participants, and increase access to justice. Remote participation in court proceedings is expanding at a rapid rate, not only in Australia but worldwide. To date, implementation of the technology has been relatively ad hoc, with little awareness that the use of the technology fundamentally alters the experience of attending court. This document is important as, for the first time, it creates comprehensive and holistic guidance for courts to improve the design and procedures of remote participation in court proceedings. The recommendations made in these guidelines are currently informing national court policy, and are sought internationally.
Putt, J., Shaw, G., Sarre, R. & Rowden, E.L. Tabled in the South Australian Parliament, Legislative Council, 31 October 2013 2013, Evaluation of the Cross-border Justice Scheme: Final report (28 August 2013), pp. 1-227, South Australian Parliament, Legislative Council.
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