Better hotel, but no cigar

Latest design for the hotel on Fountain Street. (Providence Business News)

Latest design for the hotel on Fountain Street. (Providence Business News)

I have no way of knowing whether the folks over at the Procaccianti Group have been listening to my critiques of their eight-story extended-stay hotel proposal on the site of the Fogarty Building, but their latest version, above, is much improved.

The original version, below, was so bad that it would not have been worth razing the Fogarty Building for. If a new building cannot be said to improve upon an old one built in the modernist style known as Brutalism, then it must be really, really, really lame. In fact, it looked like it belonged on an airport access road.

Why replace a building we can blame on our fathers with one we would have no alternative but to blame on ourselves?

The new design has a much more distinctly traditional look, emphasizing its verticality, which is appropriate in a high-rise. It is mostly brick, with what the modernists like to call “punched” windows (instead of strips of horizontal fenestration, or glass curtain wall, which they prefer). It has a base, a shaft and a capital, as if it were a classical order. It has a cornice. It seems to have stringcourses. Bravo!

And yet it still seems quite cheesy – a good example of “bad trad.” The cornice looks too truncated, the windows are not “punched” far enough into the “skin” (oops, I mean masonry) to make the walls look strong. And please! Get rid of those extruded metal window slabs, clearly designed to propitiate the modernists on the commission.

But these features can be improved, and doing so would show that the Procaccianti Group understands what makes a city tick. I can hardly wait for the next iteration of this design.

Meanwhile, the First Bristol proposal for another hotel (also of eight stories) on Parcel 12, the triangular land where Memorial Boulevard curves to the south, has also been improved (albeit not perfected). Which hotel will reach the promised land first?

Ladies and gentlemen of the Downtown Design Review Commission, please do not give the Procaccianti design approval before it has been earned!

Earlier version of hotel proposed for Fountain Street. (Greater City Providence)

Earlier version of hotel proposed for Fountain Street. (Greater City Providence)

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,, 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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9 Responses to Better hotel, but no cigar

  1. Pingback: Roses and raspberries, 2015 | Architecture Here and There

  2. Janani says:

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  3. Hotel staffWithout exception, we found all of the Cubans we met were genuine, happy people and really friendly but, most of all, they are all extremely proud of their beautiful country. It was refreshing to see real passion in people’s eyes when they spoke to us and Cubans seem to have a certain innocence that you just don’t encounter anywhere else in the world.


  4. My non-architectural suggestion? How about a little matchy-matchy and have the triangular hotel designed in similar fashion – providing some ethnically comfortable anchors? Settling familiarity to rest the eye? And can we please have a moratorium on what I call “Catholic school brick” – that pale tan brick that gives me shivers…and is quite ugly.


  5. Julie Smith says:

    i hope the perspective on the old version was just enhanced by renderer and it doesn’t really george jetson out like that….


  6. barry says:

    I’d feel better if their rendering showed signs of encouraging some streetlife and a good pedestrian experience.


  7. Peter Van Erp says:

    Baby steps….


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