Architectural and art historians, architects, preservationists and museum professionals from around the world will meet in Providence, R.I., April 24–28, 2019, for the 72nd Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians. Over 600 SAH members will convene at the Rhode Island Convention Center to share new research on the history of the built environment and address current issues in the field in paper sessions, roundtables, workshops, and panel discussions. The local community is invited to participate in the conference through architecture tours and public events that include a workshop on place-based storytelling, a free seminar on urban renewal and infrastructure, and a closing night reception at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. Conference attendees and the public will have the opportunity to experience the rich architectural heritage of Providence through 26 tours that explore College Hill and Brown University, local histories of LGBTQ and African-American communities, the work of H. H. Richardson and Ira Rakatansky, vernacular and industrial architecture, and the nearby cities of Newport and Bristol. (See the complete list of tours below). Local artist Barnaby Evans, founder of WaterFire Providence, will deliver the conference’s Introductory Address, and distinguished architectural historian Joan Ockman will give the inaugural Eduard F. Sekler Talk, “On the Future History of Modern Architecture.” The conference’s thirty-eight paper sessions will cover a wide array of topics and time periods and include “Agora to WaterFire: Landscape Histories in the Public Realm” and “Coastal Trade, World Trade: The Port Cities of Narragansett Bay.” (See the complete list of sessions below). Following a reception at the Providence Arts Club, the Society will recognize the achievements of its members and present the SAH Publication Awards and the SAH Award for Film and Video during its annual awards ceremony at First Baptist Church. Visit sah.org/2019 to register and to view the full conference program. Early registration is open through February 19. Registration for tours and events will open to the public on February 20.
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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.
Search Twitter for #mallmonday and see a hilariously bleak photo series that profiles different malls, some dead, some impossibly sad, each week. Why are these depressing spaces so popular with architects? By giving new life to these huge, redundant spaces, architects tap into ruinophilia to feed a culturally ingrained desire for dramatic transformation and also temper the excesses of capitalism, maybe. In the Texas capital, Austin Community College annexed semi-vacant Highland Mall for a new campus, while NBBJ is reviving a dead mall in downtown Columbus. In Providence, Rhode Island, Northeast Collaborative Architects (NCA) handily combined dead mall revivification with micro-apartments, for an timely transformation of downtown's Arcade Providence, the oldest shopping mall in the United States. The 1828 Greek Revival–style mall was closed for the last three years. Designed by Russell Warren and James Bucklin, the three-story mall was America's first enclosed shopping arcade. In a $7 million renovation, Providence-based NCA turned the mall, a National Historic Landmark, into a mixed-use development with 17 retail stores on the ground floor and 48 micro-apartments on top. Apartments open out onto a shared walkway, an arrangement that would be penitentiary-chic if not for a skylit atrium. Unlike micro-apartments in New York, where market-rate rents at Carmel Place range from $2,540 to $2,910 per month, rents at Arcade Providence begin at $550 per month for a 225 to 450 square-foot one-bedroom, My Modern Met reports. (Two- and three-bedroom units are also available.) Those units come with a full bathroom, kitchenette, and a built-in bed with storage. Tenants have access to shared laundry, TV room, and game room, as well as bike storage, and parking. Right now, the only catch for prospective tenants is the 4,000 person waiting list.
According to Moving Together Providence has the potential to be a "world model for urban design." That is of course, if the city decides to go ahead with their ambitious proposal of tearing up the 6/10 connector which joins Routes 6 and 10 between Olneyville and the interchange with Interstate 95, replacing it with a bicycle- and bus-friendly green boulevard. Currently, the connector makes use of eleven bridges, nine of which are over 50 years old and are in need of repair. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation estimates that such restoration would cost upwards of $400 million. Moving Together argues that instead of using those funds to fix infrastructure that will inevitably have be repaired again, the money should be used to transform the connector into a green boulevard with special bus and protected bike lanes. That's something, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has said she would like to see take place. Today, the connector heavily prioritizes private and commercial vehicle access into, out of, and through the city center. This has been the case for so long now, that the system has since become deeply embedded into Providence's urban fabric. However, these outdated priorities may have to make way for the contemporary demand of more efficient transportation connections that address communal, environmental, and economic needs—the triple bottom line. Naturally, there is a popular concern that removing such a widely used highway will only increase traffic. Nevertheless, urban planner Alex Krogh-Grabbe dispels these fears, saying that traffic is only increased as capacity is added, a concept known as "included demand" whereby people only use a service (in this case the highway) due to its presence. In taking away a travel option, routes into the city are actually diversified, with drivers taking many different journeys via local streets. An example of this can be seen in New York City. In 1973, the West Side Highway was removed due to a partial collapse. At the time, some 80,000 vehicles used the highway daily. Officials were baffled when traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods didn't increase with the elevated highway's closure. Now that highway is a wide boulevard running alongside the Hudson River Greenway with a much used bike route. Another dramatic transformation can be seen with the Cheonggyecheon Highway in South Korea. Here the removal of the much used highway saw a 600percent increase in biodiversity, a 35 percent drop in particulate pollution, and up to a 50 percent increase in land values within the vicinity. Aside from the obvious health benefits, protected bike lanes bring economic reward, too. In New York City, local businesses on the 9th Avenue protected bike lane witnessed a 49 percent increase in retail sales (compared to the borough average of 3 percent). In terms of safety, studies have shown that such lanes can contribute to a 90 percent reduction in injuries per mile and as for reducing emissions, choosing to cycle to work can reduce household emissions by 6 percent—a viable options for half of the United States who live within 5 miles of their workplace. Buses, too, can aid in this area. Dedicated lanes separate buses from general traffic allowing them a faster journey into the city unclogged with traffic, allowing them to carry many more people. All in all, the scheme offers a progressive and viable alternative to the highway that now slices through the city. Whether Providence's residents will take to the idea though, remains to be seen.
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] All images courtesy TimNelson3D.com / Union Studio Architecture & Community Design Not unfamiliar with daring urban design endeavors, Providence, RI is gearing up for a $20 million transformation of Kennedy Plaza, a major transportation hub and park dating to 1848 in the city's downtown. The overhaul designed by Providence-based Union Studio Architects was announced in late April and calls for upholding the plaza’s principal position as a public-transit terminal, preserving the 2002 intermodal station. Change in the site's layout will relocate bus kiosks to the perimeter of the plaza so as to create supplementary space for public and private activities to enliven the space. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] The new Kennedy Plaza scheme calls for building a public marketplace and new parks in area that was once dedicated to the bus transit center. By reorganizing bus access through the square, the city hopes to improve pedestrian safety and provide an easier transit experience. The plaza will also integrate more tables and chairs for an al fresco experience to complement an elegant new cafe. A skating rink described by locals as a "fortress" will be softened with diversified uses while the park area of the plaza, known as Burnside Park, will be better integrated with the overall Kennedy Plaza site. The design calls for a site imagined as a series of nine distinct spaces (see plan below) from a market square to a formal gardens to a central square. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] Details of the new Kennedy Plaza are still being finalized and additional fundraising is taking place. Already, support has been pledged from the National Endowment for the Arts and public and private groups in Providence. If all goes as planned, the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy could begin construction this year, which a phased approach that could take five years to complete. Participating stakeholders are the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), the Providence Foundation, the Biltmore Hotel and Cornish Associates. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter]
While some of the new architecture at Brown University is distinctly modern, Manhattan-based Selldorf Architects has been selected to bring back the historic charm of the circa 1910 English Renaissance John Hay Library. According to the Brown Daily Herald, the project was jumpstarted in February following an anonymous $3 million donation, plus another anonymous $6 million donation for the renovation from 2011. The Hay Library, which houses the university's rare books collection, archives, and other special collections, will be reconfigured to open up the grand 4,400-square-foot reading room to its original design by Boston architects Shepley Rutan & Coolidge. The room is currently divided into parts to securely store sensitive books. The larger space will allow more access to the public and can play host to larger university-related events. Librarian Harriette Hemmasi told the Daily Herald Selldorf Architects was chosen in part for their renovation of the Neue Galerie in New York. "If you’ve been in there, you know it’s really beautiful," Hammasi told the Daily Herald. "And it’s also really tastefully done, so it’s not just sort of sugary, drippy, old-fashioned. But it has sort of an edge to it, sort of a modern and old mix. And that’s what I envisioned for the John Hay, too." The year-long project is expected to get underway this summer.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the winners of its Mayors Challenge, a competition meant to generate innovative ideas for the improvement of city life. Out of the 300 cities that submitted proposals, the giving institution created by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave the Grand Prize for Innovation to Providence, RI, and its mayor, Angel Taveras. The city was awarded $5 million to implement its project, what Bloomberg Philanthropies called a "cutting-edge early education initiative." Under the initiative, participating children will wear a recording device home that will monitor the conversations they have with their parents or other adults. The transcripts of these conversations will then be used to develop weekly coaching sessions in which government monitors or someone will coach the grownups on how better to speak with their children. Bloomberg Philanthropies said it selected the "revolutionary approach" for the way it uses "proven technologies to measure vocabulary exposure in low-income households and help[s] parents close the word gap." Hello Big Brother! But, then, it's not a surprising choice coming from the man who has recently tried to ban jumbo sodas, did ban smoking in public places, and ordered the erection of signs at fast food restaurants telling consumers just how fat they're about to become. Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica also made the top five list, each taking away $1 million to put toward the implementation of their own proposals. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to build a data system to help city leaders make better decisions to prevent problems before they happen. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will launch a new procurement process to make it easier for entrepreneurs and "social innovators" to answer RFPs. Santa Monica is developing an index to measure well-being and thereby make it part of policy making. Houston walked away with the Fan Favorite prize, which added $50,000 to its purse. This prize was co-sponsored by the Huffington Post and resulted from 58,000 votes. Bayou City mayor Annise Parker is developing a one-bin recycling program, or One Bin For All, as it is called. The measure will save citizens the nuisance of sorting their refuse. Instead, recyclables will be separated from regular garbage at transfer facilities, with the goal of recycling 75 percent of all waste. Houston is currently seeking a private company to partner with on the project. In addition to the money, each of the five members will receive a trophy designed by international art star Olafur Eliasson. While no image of the trophy was available at blog time, a description was: "The Mayors Challenge Prize for Innovation award is a spherical sculpture formed by three concentric circles—square, circle, and dodecagon—encircling a hanging compass. The compass indicates steadily north, uniting the prize winners and assisting viewers in imagining their collective responsibility to navigate towards the greater good for all."
Nowadays it seems that everyone is jumping on the micro apartment bandwagon, and it only makes sense that a bite-size state like Rhode Island would pick up on this trend. Developer Evan Granoff is restoring the historic Providence Arcade (also known as Westminster Arcade), the oldest existing indoor mall in America dating to 1828, and converting it into a mixed-use complex with retail on the ground floor and micro apartments on the second and third levels. J. Michael Abbott of Northeast Collaborative Architects is leading the renovation of the Greek Revival-style Arcade. Granoff said that the original layout of the building naturally accommodates the micro apartments: “The building was interesting in the way that it is built. It divided itself into very small spaces pretty easily.” There’s already a long waiting list for the 48 units, of which 38 are micro-sized ranging from 225 to 450-square-feet. Each unit will come furnished with built-in beds, seating, and storage. The building will offer residents common gathering space, bike access, and storage. “It is designed to avoid clutter and to have everything flow,” said Granoff. Granoff anticipates that residents should be able to move in by this Spring. The Museum of the City of New York included the Arcade’s micro apartments in its recent exhibit, “Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers.”
Simple materials get elevated in a paper-and-staples homage to Isaac Newton's cenotaphFrench neoclassical architect Étienne-Louis Boullée may have drafted his famous proposal for a cenotaph for Isaac Newton in 1784, but his ideas continue to influence architects to this day, like RISD architecture graduate student, Greg Nemes, whose recent project, Encounter, draws inspiration from the nighttime starlight effect in the interior of Boullée's proposed monument. "It was an exploration in my thesis project," said Nemes. "The intention was to make an immersive space out of a ceilingscape using...a defamiliarization of space, scale, and material." After defining the curvature of the surface topology in Rhino, Nemes used Grasshopper to create triangular tessellations separated by perforations that "increase in diameter as the triangles increase in elevation, so the triangles at the top of the dome have the largest perforations." Nemes also used Grasshopper for unrolling, tabbing, labeling and packing the triangles onto sheets that were laser cut with a half-inch tab on all sides. With the help of friends, Nemes folded all the tabs and stapled them together into groups of 10-12. These grouping were then transported to the Gelman Gallery at RISD's Design Museum, where they were hung together with monofilaments and strung across the ceiling with four steel cables. It's hard to believe that the expansive and transformative ceiling installation was made from such humble materials. Though Encounter functions best when the lights are off, it speaks to Nemes' abilities as a fabricator, perhaps even as craftsman, that he was able to create an immersive environment with real architectural potential out of paper and staples. In total, Encounter measured 20' x 13' x 10,' filling almost the entire room. A small space was kept open for visitors to watch the light show Nemes created with a "computational color pattern to gradually affect the light and coloring of the space." It was shown using two projectors during a month-long exhibition called "Tickling Your Eyeballs." Watch the short video of the making of Encounter and see it in action.