Fane’s Copycat Point Tower

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Absolute Towers, near Toronto (left), and the new 600-foot Fane Tower design (right)

The new design for Jason Fane’s Hope Point Tower might be separated at birth from MAD Architects’ Absolute Towers, outside Toronto.

But it’s not really a separated-at-birth shot but a before-and-after shot – two buildings in a heightened state of arousal before, and the same two buildings soon after, amid coitus. This is a family blog. How am I to report on this? Where is respect for copyright? This is an open-and-shut case of copyright infringement. One of these sets of buildings needs to lawyer up, preferably after taking a shower, or at least giving the rest of us a chance to take one.

The City Plan Commission viewed the new design this evening. I was not able to attend. Perhaps the Providence Journal’s news story will describe the reaction of the audience. The main issue was to be the addition of about 200 feet to the building’s proposed height, which was already more than 400 feet, or about four times the height limit under city zoning. Now it is six times too tall. But after the attendees saw the new design, did anyone even remember the height issue? Maybe that was precisely the point.

After news emerged in February that a new design was afoot, I wrote a post, “White tower with curves.” The new design was described back then by Fane as a “white tower with sculptured curves.” but at that point there were no illustrations and no architect mentioned. So I speculated, and pointed my finger at the paired towers by MAD outside Toronto, also known as the Marilyn Monroe buildings. Little did I know how close I had come!

And indeed, the Journal did have its story on the hearing online this evening. Fane’s architect, it turns out, is IBI Group Architects, whose designer described the tower as “senuous.” Oh, yes. IBI is from Toronto.

Needless to say, city officials should shoot down the height travesty proposed by Fane. That way, the city would not have to wrangle over whether to allow an X-rated building to sully the skyline of the capital of the Biggest Little. If they approve a height of six times the regulation, Providence effectively will be without zoning, if not without shame.

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.
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17 Responses to Fane’s Copycat Point Tower

  1. Pingback: Just as bad but not as silly | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: Fane theater of the absurd | Architecture Here and There

  3. Pingback: Put Fane tower downtown | Architecture Here and There

  4. Jayne Martin says:

    Subject: Re: Fane Building Proposal in Providence

    Are they kidding? Horrible. It looks like two legs whose feet have been amputated. The shoes can go into the orthopedic shoebox they built across the river years back (I believe it was the Old Stone Bank bldg.? It houses Hemenway’s). They managed to ruin the S. Main/College Hill View with that one. Then the RISD Museum bldg. is another ugly misfit. Let’s Make Rhode Island Ugly Again! This new one is the worst. The height is stupid—all out of proportion, never mind the design. Welcome to Stupidtown!

    Jayne Martin
    Riverside, RI


    • Agreed! (It is the Old Stone Square, Old Stone Bank is the elegant domed building across South Main.) Providence was built with such beauty – that is, with high intellegence. What happened? Ask RISD!


  5. Anonymous says:

    Loved your essay! Right on! I sent this to ProJo yesterday. Bill Warner, Irving Haynes, and Antoinette Downing are weeping from heaven.

    Dear Editor,

    Referencing the classical touchstones of art as articulated centuries ago by Thomas Aquinas – wholeness, harmony, and clarity — the building as depicted in The Providence Journal does not begin to rise to the level of what we can accept as a work of art. It expresses no harmony with the sky and clouds which surround it in the picture, nevermind the river, and nevermind the architectural harmony that is Providence, almost insults them with its cartoonish thrust that looks more like a fashion illustration than a building. You can see the skirt to the left and the back and buttock to the right. Nice dresses? Maybe. But not a building. Not for Providence with its history of ideas that lift us to a higher ideal. This building would be an unseemly joke in Providence. In New York, it might fit in as a goofy commentary on all the other skyscrapers. But don’t let this thing find a place in Providence. It’s no Eiffel Tower. It’s a joke.

    Marion Wrye
    Three Meadow Avenue
    East Providence, RI 02915


  6. Shirley A. Utterback says:

    Loved your review–still laughing while praying they are kidding –they can’t be serious.!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve says:

    Again, the small town mentality rears it’s ugly head…”skyline of the capital of the Biggest Little. If they approve a height of six times the regulation, Providence effectively will be without zoning”

    We are not the Biggest Little and should never be. I am sick of “little” and “small” attached to my city. If folks want little, move to Portsmouth.

    The problem is the ridiculously low heights of the entire area south of Dorrance Street to Point Street. It is downtown- not Wayland Square. This entire area should be zoned 500 feet with 100 foot variance. The darn site is only 3 tenths of a mile from the Textron tower!

    As to design, that is up to debate, for sure. Strange design for Providence, almost insulting. Personally, I liked the first design much better.


    • Must agree to disagree on height, Steve. As to the “Biggest Little,” that’s a moniker for Rhode Island, not Providence. Providence is not the Biggest Little, it is “the capital of the Biggest Little.”

      You must really hate the state’s new tourism campaign, which I have not commented on, the one that emphasizes our small stature. Face it, Rhode Island is little, and some of that rubs off on Providence. Intelligent urbanism can make Providence grow, but the way to do it is not necessarily by building the tallest and ugliest possible everywhere. That seems to be the theory of our “leadership” today. I’m glad you do agree on the ugliness, at least in this instance.


      • Steve says:

        Oh, I know the moniker. A bush league one at that. Something Providence should avoid like the plague.

        I think the state’s new tourism campaign – the one that emphasizes our small stature is stupid, to say the least. Fact is that Rhode Island is NOT little. It has more people than seven states!
        Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Hawaii, and Delaware are also small. Let one of them claim the unflattering title.

        Anyone with historical or demographic knowledge could come up with a far more powerful and accurate campaign.

        Oh, I surely agree with you on the need for Providence to strictly control design; but restricting our city’s height does not contribute to its beauty.


    • David R Johnston says:

      Prov needs more room means up not sideways or puny little buildings to satisfy jewelry district and capionwano


  8. David Andreozzi AIA says:

    Aside from its embarrassingly kitsch sophomoric design that has no cultural connection to Providence’s rich history, the real issue is its scale and ridiculous placement in our historic urban plan. We should all reread what the legendary Jane Jacobs said about a single missing tooth in a once beautiful smile. The story doesn’t have a good ending. Peace.


  9. says:

    Good retort !

    Sent from my iPhone



  10. Over and over again we are fooled…until we are finally, foolish.


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