What in blazes is that!?

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Huh? (Photo by Cliff Vanover)

My friend and mapmeister Cliff Vanover sent me the above photo of … heck if I know! He says it sits in Little Compton – Little Compton! – just west of Route 77 near the entrance to the Sakonnet Vineyards, once Rhode Island’s vintner extraordinaire, but, after falling on hard times, bought by Alex & Ani, the lifestyle conglomerate that seems to be gobbling up the state. Today the Sakonnet Vineyards! Tomorrow, the world! Now called Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, it may for all I know still be producing drinkable wines.

But what’s that across the road? Does Carolyn realize that alien forces are marshaling against her tidy little field of grapes? Or maybe not. Maybe it is just the residence of a standard-issue sado-masochist. On the other hand, look at all those trucks. Either the aliens are moving in or the place is some sort of commercial operation. But of what sort? Or maybe it is a nonprofit, or a philanthropic institute, some outfit run by a nut with a world-class artist-wannabe complex? Or maybe it is the new addition to a genteel art museum waiting to be helicoptered into place. Those seem to be Quonset huts nearby. What does that mean? In this day and age even such a hulk can hardly be a bomb shelter. Maybe Donald Trump’s proposed relocation of Area 51 to the Ocean State has already been accomplished.

What sort of person would inflict such an abomination on beautiful Rhode Island? And what sort of county permitting commission would permit it?

Later today arrives the answer: “Concrete ‘Castle’ Turns Heads in Little Compton,” by EastBayRI.com, published last September. It is a house. Local building official Bill Moore says he gets a call a day about it. It is rumored to have been designed by Providence architect Friedrich St. Florian, famous for Providence Place and the National World War II Memorial, in Washington. I hope not! It is owned, according to eastbayri.com, by Domenic and Laurie Carcieri. Have they no shame?

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Home of Domefic and Laurie Carcieri. (eastbayri.com)

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. 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. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and 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 invest your prose with even more style and clarity, 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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5 Responses to What in blazes is that!?

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  2. Not Fredrick St. Florian says:

    I guess what’s great about architecture is that it’s subjective and always open to debate but why is our natural reaction in New England to call any form of creativity and innovation an “abomination”? Is it simply because it’s not a direct reflection of its neighbors or because it doesn’t fall in-line with what the Pilgrims brought to Plymouth? Think beyond the clapboard cape or colonial and the short-sighted nature we look at homes and consider the experience within and around the structure. This home was not designed by Fredrick St. Florian but it was designed thoughtfully to take full advantage of the site-specific advantages such as prevailing winds, views, sunlight and its direct effect on the experience within and around the structure. Concrete was used a medium to frame and create dramatic experiences inside and out while using modern materials to develop contrast and architectural “wow” moments that are only topped by the view the site enjoys. Along with that, an innovative insulated concrete system was used to reduce energy consumption and using modern techniques, the concrete was carefully detailed as an architectural feature. Art is fantastic because it’s open to interpretation but I challenge everyone to think beyond the fact that this doesn’t meet the shallow expectations of residential design and looks beyond to create fantastic and dramatic experiences those for which it was built for, it’s occupants, not superficial expectations of passersby.

    At the same time, congratulations to Bill Moore for addressing the fact that in this capacity government exists to ensure safety through compliance with zoning and building code, not dictate design, suppress creativity and control freedom of expression as a dictatorship might.

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    • I guess, Not, that we’ll have to agree to disagree. What you consider creative most average people consider dissonant and alien to their environment. Their reaction is indeed “natural.” Creativity is much deeper than a compulsion to design something that is completely unlike anything before. There is creativity to advancing the traditional forms of architecture in ways that are more nuanced than your architecture school curricula today are able to perceive. Bringing greater virtuosity to how the old way of doing things evolves into the future – including new technologies, whose inclusion is as old as architecture itself – is more conducive to a livable, lovable environment than any or, for that matter, all of your “wow moments.” Your are right. They may last a moment, or a couple of years, but can never bring joy that lasts over decades or centuries. They are dated instantaneously.
      But, hey, man, keep on putting up stuff like that concrete bunker in Little Compton! You’ll only hasten your own demise.

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  3. The “Quonset huts” are greenhouses. The construction is already on Google Satellite View. For an unsullied street view: https://goo.gl/maps/1BNeuQnfnKQ2
    The owners are in the assessor’s database here: http://gis.vgsi.com/LittleComptonRI/Parcel.aspx?pid=261

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  4. How could this be a house? But a house it is – apparently – http://www.eastbayri.com/stories/concrete-castle-turns-heads-in-little-compton,16594 – being built for attorney Domenic Carcieri…

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