Silence for S.W. Pavilion

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Rhode Island Hospital’s Southwest Pavilion. (PPS)

For about an hour tomorrow afternoon may be spent in silence for a good cause – sitting mute at a meeting to save the Southwest Pavilion. This is the oldest survivor from the day when Rhode Island Hospital looked like a place to care for people rather than like a pile of adding machines to tot up the obscene profits of a health industry gone bonkers.

The Zoning Board of Review meeting begins at 4:45 p.m. tomorrow on the first floor of the city’s planning office, 444 Westminster St. That’s the clunky brick building acquired by the city so that its planners could trade down from their old offices in the Caesar Misch Building (1903), across Empire Street, into a Brutalist building that seems to represent the city’s blunted ambition for architecture. (See any design proposed for the I-195 land.)

But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Rhode Island Hospital seeks to overturn a decision last December by the City Plan Commission that blocked a proposed demolition of the Southwest Pavilion. The hospital’s claim that it can find no use for it is highly dubious. It does not want to find a use for it. It will not say so, but it probably wants eventually to build another new building to further uglify its campus. Why? So that it will seem more in sync with the modern mission of its leadership.

Really? I don’t know. I only know what it looks like.

Hospitals used to be about people – patients, nurses, doctors. Now they are about money. That has been the far from subtle message of its architecture for decades.

I am sure the Providence Preservation Society, which is sponsoring this silent protest, does not see eye-to-eye with my cynicism on this, but the society is against tearing down a building of beauty, which means maybe it is getting back to its original mission.

The public is barred from speaking at this meeting, so a loud silence will reign. You can sign to participate in this sit-in by clicking here.

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, Development, Preservation, Providence, Urbanism and planning and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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