When I saw the image above of Rhode Island’s pitch for Amazon’s HQ2, in today’s Providence Journal (“Envisioning Amazon’s HQ2 in heart of Capital Center“), I thought I imagined Deming Sherman’s head explode. But no, that was my head exploding.
Deming Sherman is the Capital Center Commission chairman who has defended Capital Center’s green spaces from proposals to build a new bus hub that would encroach on the State House lawn. He must have thought it was April 1 when he saw the newly released images of the HQ2 proposal. It does not encroach upon the State House lawn – it does not need to. It merely sledgehammers the whole place to smithereens.
Everybody knows that to the extent Providence is a delightful place with a bright future ahead, it is because the city is beautiful. In the 1960s it dodged the bullet of urban renewal. Since that time, it has preserved its historical character more faithfully and succumbed to fashion far less avidly than most other American cities. Yet virtually all current development proposals have embraced fashion, sashaying down the architectural runway decked out in egotecture designed not to be worn but to be flaunted as markers of ultimate municipal hip. Radical Chic in blueprints and T-squares. Tom Wolfe’s famous essay leaps to mind, with its Fifth Avenue society dames throwing parties for radical bomb-throwers. Not healthy.
The new CommerceRI HQ2 pitch images beat all, clogging downtown with stark and sterile towers that would drown out everything beautiful here, squelching our city’s human scale, blocking views of the State House and almost everything else we love, from almost every direction.
Do Providence and Rhode Island have a death wish?