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Johnson & Wales: Building Within the New Millennium

04.04.14 / Robert Quigley, AIA & Jack Cochran

In the new millennium, exciting building opportunities exist as cities seek to transform and revitalize neighborhoods where former infrastructure was once dominant.  After WWII, rising wealth, suburbs, and the automobile led to massive shifts in the urban structure as a push toward decentralization led to nation-wide highway construction that displaced city residents and divided cities. Now some of these changes are being reversed, with highways dismantled, vacant sites reoccupied, and city streets redesigned.

In Providence, Rhode Island, ARC is designing the first building to occupy a strip of land formerly occupied by the I-195 highway spur, which was demolished between 2010 to 2013.  Johnson and Wales University (JWU), which occupy a downtown Providence campus, retained ARC to design a signature building on this former highway site to house their expanding science and technology programs. The new classroom building will also be a critical component of JWU’s new campus master plan.

With this new building ARC has the opportunity to set the tone for the development of a new design context, as well as ensure this first component of JWU’s master plan provides an effective new campus focus before future buildings are completed. In the initial design stages, our Design Team discussed how best to accomplish these goals, shaping the building to help develop street fronts, both existing and future, and also provide a campus identity for a University with buildings in several locations in Providence. Through much iteration, we aimed to balance activity on the street with a quiet internal zone for contemplation and work, accessible to the public, but removed from the sounds of the street.

Together with JWU, we have decided to create a building that, through its shape, provides frontage on all major streets in the neighborhood, stretching across the block to provide access on the newly constructed Friendship Street, as well as on the more established Pine and Chestnut Streets. The shape also creates an interior spine with a café as its focal point, connecting a pocket park along Chestnut Street with a larger quad to the south of the building. Internally, the building has a central collaboration zone connected to the café, as well as smaller collaborative spaces throughout, to encourage open work sessions across and between disciplines.

Site plan layout options

Situated between Providence’s downtown business district and former jewelry manufacturing district, we are creating a forward-thinking factory of learning, one that encourages interaction and interdisciplinary thinking. It will be a community of learning that engages the public, one that states clearly that this space is now reclaimed as urban, is pedestrian-friendly, and is a place of higher learning on display for all to experience.

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