Two attacks on the East Side

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New SquashBusters facility at the Moses Brown School, on Hope Street, in Providence.

These two really ugly new buildings on Providence’s storied East Side reveal a thoughtlessness and lack of consideration on the part of two highly respected private schools. People walking or driving by Moses Brown or the Lincoln School must wonder how such eyesores could possibly have been foisted upon their lovely streets – Hope Street and Blackstone Boulevard, top and bottom, respectively, both at very prominent locations. Did either of these schools ask, or even care, what their neighbors might think?

The two carbuncles are, top, a set of squash courts and, bottom, a STEM (or STEAM) facility. Neither use requires a design that punches either historic neighborhood in the face. The architects are not to blame, ugly as their work looks. They just follow orders. The boards of the two schools, both Quaker, are to blame. Maybe they are not criminals, though they ignore local zoning ordinances protecting historical character. It may be more accurate to call them sinners. They have sinned against beauty, and betrayed their city, their neighborhoods, and their own institutions, which boast campuses that are otherwise lovely. Shame!

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New STEAM facility at the Lincoln School on Blackstone Boulevard/Butler Avenue.

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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10 Responses to Two attacks on the East Side

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks David. Man, they suck. Amazing that this garbage just goes on and on. And no, it is the rotten architect’s fault.

    Like

  2. David Andreozzi AIA says:

    David my friend, you are half correct. Moses Brown and the Lincoln School, born out of our community, have become local institutions, and in my humble opinion should be our shepherds. The architectural fabric that they create should reflect ideals of our community’s history and culture going forward, not ignore them.

    But, architects are also the problem. The bigger problem. While we can all sympathize with the local architectural firm for needing to feed their families by providing a school board with the kitsch sculptural drivel that they thirst for, the larger community of architects including the AIA both locally and nationally should be educating the public on the importance of connecting each and every design they create to the idiosyncratic DNA born of that local site’s vernacular, history, and cultural ethos.

    Rather, me and my architectural brethren have relegated the perception of our roles as architects to glorified clerks of the works for the latest fad; green, sustainable, bim, etc, to make a buck. So, as our profession has cut off its art to spite its face, the larger masses don’t remember the importance of the role of a traditional architect, and therefore, states are beginning to eliminate our profession entirely.

    https://www.archdaily.com/887865/aia-responds-to-actions-taken-by-25-states-to-reduce-architectural-licensure-requirements

    Great job, we should all be proud of those awards hanging on our walls!

    Excuse me while I pat myself on the back!

    Peace

    Like

    • I think you may be right, Dave. Architects are the problem, too, and how they compare in culpability to clients is a sort of chicken/egg question.

      Like

      • David Andreozzi AIA says:

        The problem is the we know better and are not educating. In truth, this sort of re-education would take decades to accomplish, but its needs to be the basis of out professional ethos. Rather, we lie subordinate to glossy paged magazines, awards programs packed with cloyingly superficial judges, and colleges racing to be the leaders dumb blond architecture… right off the cliff. So yes, our problem is that we haven’t led, rather through desperation, we have followed flawed doctrine to stay in business.

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        • No, Dave, we (meaning leading architects and educators) don’t know better but are wilfully blind. Re-education is necessary indeed, but other strategies are required that I’ve enumerated again and again for years, but to little response even from classicists. I mean flooding the design review meetings, evening the tilted playing field for commissions, forcing politicians to heed the views of actual voters, etc., etc. …

          Crickets.

          Like

  3. Stephen ORourke says:

    The Lincoln School mess is the one I called you about a month ago. Can’t believe how insensitive they were to the neighborhood. It is truly ugly and inappropriate.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  4. Stunned. The squash courts look like a fortress.

    Like

  5. Clayton Fulkerson says:

    May I file another complaint: Overhead wires. A necessary eyesore, I suppose. They’re so ubiquitous, we don’t even notice them most of the time.

    Like

  6. PHILIP JAMESON says:

    What is even worse, the Steam will be putting up a commercial sign!

    Like

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