Garage design in Providence

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Proposed garage for South Street Landing. (SGA)

So the most shovel-ready modernist abomination in Providence is apparently about to begin construction. Maybe it’s not too late to redesign the garage so that it fits into its setting. It is right next to a neoclassical power plant being rehabbed as a nursing school in the Jewelry District. This garage typifies the reigning attitude in Providence and Rhode Island development circles that prefers designs that undermine both the Ocean State brand and one of its very few competitive advantages – beauty.

Here is the Providence Journal’s story, “Consruction of downtown Providence parking garage to begin this week,” by Kate Bramson. (The Journal’s farming out of copyediting  to Austin, Texas, may be to blame for the assertion that the garage is downtown.) Two proposed dormitories for this South Street Landing project – Brown administration offices plus a state nursing school – are equally stupid and depressing in their design, which seems intent upon blocking views of the beautiful 1912 plant. The firm SGA includes, I believe, the architect who gave us the GTECH building.

This is the sort of thing I raspberried in my post last night. But it is not too late for intelligent design to prevail, and to change the exterior of the garage (and the dorms) so that they will strengthen both the beauty and the brand of Rhode Island and its capital city. Johnson & Wales last year completed a garage just off Webyosset Street (actually in downtown) that does this – or at least gave it a good old college try. If strengthening beauty and brand is not a useful economic development policy, I’ll eat my hat.

Below is a photograph of the Johnson & Wales garage, which probably should have received a rose. I will look into that.

I wrote a column toward the end of my stint at the Journal about how garages can be made elegant and unobtrusive in their settings. Richmond, Va., does this very well. I will grab it and post it as soon as I can.


Johnson & Wales garage, left of center not at end of street, shot in September of 20145 so out of the running for a rose. (Photo by David Brussat)

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.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Architecture History, Art and design, Blast from past, Development, Providence, Rhode Island, Urbanism and planning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Garage design in Providence

  1. Pingback: Garages can be beautiful | Architecture Here and There

  2. Cliff says:

    When I went to your web site and the front page came up, what first caught my attention was the rendering of the ugly garage. Then my gaze naturally drifted up to the title of the post, but I didn’t see the word “garage” in it. Instead, my mind tricked me (again!) and cleverly substituted the word “garbage,” which it truly is.


  3. says:

    What the he’ll is wrong with these people?

    Sent from my Sprint phone.


  4. It makes the Arcade garage look elegant!


    • At least the Arcade Garage (Parkade?) tried in its PoMo way to be attractive. The South Street Landing garage looks as if its designers are purposely kicking the shins of the South Street power station, daring it to do something about your ugly new neighbor.


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