REX has released renderings of Brown University’s new Performing Arts Center (PAC), a 94,500-square-foot boxy building designed with a “radical vision” for the school that features a transformative interior production space. The massive institutional project, located in Providence, Rhode Island, is slated to open in spring of 2022.
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal and founder of REX, said the structure’s design is “extremely precise” in how it fits the needs of Brown students and faculty. His team created the main hall to physically adapt to several different types of performances that the students may put on. “It is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ auditorium, mediocre to all and excellent for none,” Prince-Ramus said in a statement. “It is literally five very specific, high-performance configurations in one.”
What he’s referring to is the venue’s ability to be rearranged into a number of stage and audience setups, from a 625-seat symphony orchestra hall to a 250-seat proscenium theater to a surround-sound cube for experimental media performances. Using both automated and manually assisted performance equipment, the shoebox-shaped hall can change its flexible interior layout and acoustical design to complement the goals of a specific show. The concept echoes the flexible interior of the Wyly Theatre, one of REX’s earliest projects.
From the outside, the PAC loosely resembles REX’s design for the World Trade Center’s upcoming cultural space, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center. Also a looming, solid structure, it commands attention and conceals its insides. Unlike the New York project’s translucent marble facade, the Brown building features a seemingly-shrink-wrapped, extruded aluminum rain screen with a fluted shape. The metallic exterior is sure to stand out among the slew of historic buildings on Brown’s urban campus.
Apart from the cladding, one thing, in particular, is majorly distinctive about the design: The PAC features a 13-foot horizontal “clearstory” window that slices through the building and cantilevers out over the exterior public space. This transparent cutout allows passersby to see directly into the main performance hall as well as the building’s lobby. REX integrated the glazed portion, which opens the structure up to Angell Street, the main thoroughfare in Providence, to spark curiosity and encourage both the public and Brown students to engage with the university’s arts scene.
From the inside, visitors can enjoy expansive views of The Walk, a series of green spaces running north to south on campus. The new PAC’s suite of modern studios dedicated to dance, music, and theater rehearsals, and intimate performance spaces for smaller gatherings will all be easily accessible from this pedestrian route.
The PAC project was birthed out of the Brown Arts Initiative, introduced in 2017 as a way to elevate the university as an incubator for both traditional and experimental art and media. The PAC itself is the physical manifestation of that goal and a new arts typology in architecture, according to REX. With “radical spatial, acoustic, and technical flexibility,” it showcases within the design just how forward-thinking the arts at Brown can be.