“White tower with curves”

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Last year’s proposal for a single tower, pared down from an original three. (Fane)

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Providence awaits its “white tower with sculptured curves.” That’s how developer Jason Fane, of New York City, now envisions his “iconic” building of 46 stories (no pics yet) as described to Providence Journal reporter Mark Reynolds in “Land sale gets OK for 46-story tower.”

Actually it’s a preliminary OK from the I-195 commish. But fugeddabout squeezing the word “preliminary” into a headline.

What happened to the last version of what were once three slick brown multi-slabs sporting patented Minion spectacles? But now it’s a white tower with sculptured curves. And Fane still wants a pair of these suckers. What are we to make of that?

Hope Point Towers?

Hope not.

White tower with sculptured curves? Isn’t that kinda sorta racist or sexist or both? Tough call these days. But still, sounds quite sexy to me. Sort of like the Absolute Towers, also known as the Marilyn Monroe Buildings, in a suburb of Toronto, designed by MAD Architects. (That is not a joke, at least the name is not a joke.)

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Site plan for the proposed Hope Point Tower on I-195 land. (Fane)

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, 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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20 Responses to “White tower with curves”

  1. Pingback: Fane’s Copycat Point Tower | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: Fane tower versus beauty | Architecture Here and There

  3. Michael J. Tyrrell says:

    Agree it’s in the wrong place. One thing PVD must master is the 1+1=3 principal.
    When seeking to rehabilitate the Industrial Trust (Superman) Tower, the city fails to direct Developer Fane to that land owner. Meanwhile Brown University wants to build a new performaning arts center on campus and may trash five beautiful houses in the process -all that when the riverfront could benefit from such venue. Speaking of the riverfront, a design-challenged developer seeks to build a low-rise hotel on a perfect strip of sun-bathed open space, where the Providence Flea (market) currently thrives and enlivens that area. But why support that when you can inundate the site with parking on a weird shallow footprint?… This town, with all its tremendous place making and growth potential, appears leverage-illiterate; the blind leading the blind… Where is Common Sense?…


    • Yes, Michael, the city and state seem blind to the advantages built into the beauty of our major R.I. cities, and purposely ignorant about development. Never heard of the 1+1=3 principle but it sounds good – a matter of leveraging advantages. In fact, while I love the five buildings at risk at Brown, and wish the performance center could be built on the waterfront, perhaps an even better idea would be to propose a concert hall whose beauty would make up for the loss of the five old buildings. That is the way cities used to develop before we embraced modern architecture, a move so bad that a hobby almost instantly transformed into a mass movement to stop it – I refer, of course, to historic preservation. It would be even better if the old buildings could be moved to sites where they’d strengthen the fabric. Of course, none of this is likely under current official thinking.


  4. Steve says:

    Oh, come on guys. “anti-human element” and “five or six stories”??? What and where are we talking about?? It is mere 3/10s of a mile from a 320 story tower and 3/10s of a mile from three 25 story smokestacks. That entire district should have a height range of 200-500 feet.

    That does not stop the design requirements from being, as you say, Peter, sympathetic to the city’s historical character.


  5. petervanerp says:

    Interesting site plan. The existing 2 and proposed 6 story buildings get to have their shadows cast to the Northeast. The new building and parking podium has no shadow! But vampires cast no shadows…. They also show a proposed outdoor cafe, which would be just like Luxe, except with Mem Blvd. right next door instead of Union Station. Very cosy.
    On to the rendering. Where did that 30 story blah in the right background come from? As for as I can tell, it’s somewhere in the middle of the river. Beyond that, it’s mediocre late stage Gehry knockoff. Streaking car lights! Indeterminate blah at the street, but based on recent precedent, this is about what we can expect. At least the architect has gotten beyond the current ( for Providence) fad of random window patterning (I know its 10 years out of date at the GSD….).


    • Heh heh. Yes, it is a vampire, Peter. Hope a silver bullet hastens on stage!

      Not sure what “30 story blah” you are referring to here. In the image of the Marilyn Monroe building? That is in Toronto.


  6. Eric Daum says:

    Bad building. Too tall. Wrong site. Not much else to say.


  7. Steve says:

    The southern boundary should be Point Street…big city – big downtown.


    • Not a big city. Medium-sized city. One of the good things about it. Deluding ourselves as to its size (or other factors) can twist planning, which is dicey enough already. An expanding downtown means we can no longer call it a walkable downtown. Big mistake.


      • Steve says:

        Ha!!!! The “Rhode Island mentality!!

        I counter with:
        More manufacturing than Boston, second largest metro in New England, one of only two deep water ports in New England (PVD and BOS), 11th busiest Amtrak station in the nation, 9,600 persons/sq mile, 36th largest metro in nation, one of the busiest intersections in nation (95 at 195), one the busiest fire stations in nation (Washington St), and more. Big city…unless you think Boston is medium too.

        You are so correct, deluding ourselves as to size, etc. can twist planning…
        May I point to the equivalent of THREE 25 story towers at Point Street (smoke stacks) only 1/3 of a mile south and multiple 20-35 story towers approx.1/3 of a mile north.

        Perfect location for filling in the gap with multiple well designed towers.


        • Nobody who has been to Boston can doubt that it is a big city and Providence is a medium-sized city. Your argument is geographical, not populational (if that’s a word), let alone economic. Maybe, Steve, you have bought into the delusional 1912 chamber of commerce map I reprinted in the intro to my book “Lost Providence.”


          • Steve says:

            No delusion, David – a perspective.

            Providence is the137th largest city in the nation, with a 180,000 pop (plus 30K college students and an est 20K illegal aliens) There are 307 cites of over 100,000 people, leaving THOUSANDS of other cities. That surely places PVD in the big category.

            I could have added dozens of other facts that are included in the definition of a large city; making PVD easily in that class.

            But most important is the symptom that is a result of the “Rhode Island mentality”…that somehow PVD is small (or medium). The attitude that virtually everything proposed is too big, too tall, too much. Like this is Portsmouth. With devastating consequences on our growth. I have been to over 70 American and foreign cities…large cities can and do have big, attractive and walkable downtowns with high density and big buildings.

            Having said that, I surely no not want to look like that ugly city 50 mile to our north. Tall, big, and more in PVD is very good – with a keen eye to integrating that growth into our great architectural beauty. That can be the difference between us and that other city.

            Our architectural beauty is our character and our strength. Large size is not the factor. My point —— I say, we can and should be both.

            Oh, I read “Lost Providence” – nicely done.

            Reply from DB – Thank you, Steve. And agreed – perspective, not delusion. But most of those thousands of other “cities” are actually towns.

            But I’m with you here: “Tall, big, and more in PVD is very good – with a keen eye to integrating that growth into our great architectural beauty. That can be the difference between us and that other city.” As far as Brown tearning down or moving five old houses to put up a performing arts center, there is an easy solution in line with your thought: It is to build a beautiful performing arts center in the sensibility of its historical setting. That has been done in Nashville, Charleston and other places. Do it here and the need to save the five buildings diminishes greatly. Not sure this would work for the Fane tower, but a Hope Point Tower that looks like, say, the Woolworth Building would be more acceptable. Move it to the (real) downtown, even better.


  8. Anonymous says:

    Ugly, ugly, ugly. This has to be stopped. What is it about architects and so-called city “planners” who see a stretch of clear, clear sky, and immediately want to stick something in it.


    • Steve says:

      Because this is Providence- not Portsmouth. Growing big cities need population density, spenders, taxpayers, and the buildings for them to live, work, and play in.


  9. Steve says:

    I look forward to the rendering…and once refined – to a tower that very much fits and belongs in downtown Providence and extends downtown a mere but important 1/3 mile.


    • Don’t hold your breath, Steve! And don’t concede that area in or on the other side of the Jewelry District as downtown. To me, downtown is bounded by the Providence River, Smith Street, Route 95 and – the hard part now – Clifford Street or Friendship Street, though the “One Way Street” would mean the municipal court stands outside of downtown, and I don’t think it does.


    • petervanerp says:

      Any building thats sits on a 5 story parking base does not fit in downtown Providence. The new garage for South Street landing has already done massive damage to the possibility that South Street will be integrated into the city, and the proposed podium for Hope Point Tower will add another anti-human element to the wall being erected south of Downtown along the river. The most successful parts of Downtown are the smaller scaled buildings along Westminster, Washington and the cross streets. The streaking car tail lights in the rendering indicate just for what the towers are being built.


      • You could not possibly be more correct, Peter. The Jewelry District has needed an infusion of buildings the scale of Westminster Street for a long time. Already too many parking lots and unsympathetic buildings. There is no reason buildings of five or six stories sympathetic to the city’s historical character could not house house the activities conceived for the district.

        Long ago, in a column, facing a tranch of uglies proposed for Capital Center, I suggested a “sandbox for the modernists” in the Jewelry District. Now, I’m afraid, that’s what we are getting. At the time, I suggested this might deflect modernists’ attention away from the old downtown. If it has accomplished that, then maybe some good has been done. But the cost has been and will be terrible. What did the Jewelry District do to deserve this?


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