How to square the square

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Toward uncompleted intersection near Providence Place mall. (RIDOT)

Seventeen years ago, Providence Place mall opened up downtown, in the Capital Center District, where an exit ramp from Route 95 meets Francis Street and continues on as Memorial Boulevard. Ever since then, too many pedestrians have endangered their lives by crossing at the end of the ramp where there is no crosswalk. Planners expect them instead to cross Francis, then cross Memorial, then cross Francis again to reach the mall.

If I were a pedestrian I would feel dissed. Why make me go all that extra way around to reach the shopping mall? Why not let me cross from Point A to Point B instead of forcing me to add A-to-C, C-to-D and D-to-B to my itinerary? Even this intersection’s No. 1 fan (me) is not so enthralled by its curiously attractive architecture – except for GTECH, which is thankfully hidden in the view above – as to covet extra footsteps to look at it.

So now the planners are finally going to solve the problem. The Providence Journal’s John Hill, in today’s article “No Thru Here,” describes how. Not with common sense, not by implementing the solution that’s been staring them in the face for 17 years, but by trying harder to block the shortcut near Fleming’s Steakhouse with even more concrete planters.

It’s not as if the ramp is too short for drivers to stop in time. There is plenty of room. No problem. It is not squaring a circle but squaring a square.

This sort of thing wakens the inner cynicism that these days sends voters into the arms of Trump. Why use a can of paint to solve a problem that can be solved with several hundred thousand dollars worth of concrete and steel designed by my aunt’s daughter-in-law’s infrastructure-supply firm, built by my barber’s son’s fabricating company, and installed by a road contractor owned by the second cousin of the top legislative assistant to my favorite politician? Will the landscaper of the Omni Hotel, who must be nephew to somebody, tend to the flowering dogwoods in the planters seasonally? Or will that job go to RIDOT?

Ah, Rogue Island!

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, Art and design, Development, Providence, Providence Journal, Rhode Island, Urbanism and planning and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to How to square the square

  1. Tony Brussat says:

    Ha ha! Well done.

    Sent from my iPad



  2. A little paint, and increasing the island in the middle. When (if?) Route 10 is converted to a Boulevard, they will just have to tear out what is installed. Letting the DOT design anything in a city is a crime against the citizens; viz, the exit from I-195 to South Main Street.


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