Column: Providence’s long romance with brick

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Diaper brickwork at Brown’s Jonathan Nelson Fitness Center, in Providence. (Photo by David Brussat)

Brick often finds itself in the dog house.

Long ago in Providence, architectural historian and local preservation heroine Antoinette Downing, sitting on the design review panel of the Capital Center Commission, is said to have sniggered at one of the oldest and most distinguished building materials in the history of architecture.

In an interview with The Journal’s John Castellucci on Feb. 26, 1996, she was described by fellow panel member and Rhode Island School of Design architecture professor Derek Bradford as whispering to him, “If I see another red brick building, I think I’ll be sick.”

Downing’s disdain for red brick strikes me as akin to the supposed disdain of the postwar American public for aging Victorian architecture. It was disliked by modern architects, who in their egoism now claim the world agreed.

[To read the rest of this column, please visit The Providence Journal.]

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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