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In Providence, Distinctive Downtown Architecture Faces Certain Demolition

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Providence is moving forward on a plan to demolish the Fogarty Building, a 1960s structure that some architects see as an example of Brutalist architec...

Providence is moving forward on a plan to demolish the Fogarty Building, a 1960s structure that some architects see as an  example of Brutalist architecture -- one of few in the city. The building is likely to be torn down to make way for a hotel.

The Fogarty Building stands out on a windy corridor in downtown Providence. A concrete box across from the convention center, its two top floors sit on pillars above an open porch. The building’s hard, clean lines and squared-off shapes reflect what’s known as Brutalist architecture. It’s a style that hasn’t aged well according to RISD architecture professor Christopher Bardt.

“Brick buildings, stone buildings, they absorb time, and become in a way steeped in history and memory,” said Bardt. “This building simply wears and it doesn’t take on history, and I think that’s one reason they’re tough buildings to appreciate.”

The Brutalist style became popular after World War II during era of robust social programs. The Fogarty Building used to house a public welfare office.

Bardt admits it was unlikely structure could have been saved or repurposed, still, he’s sad to see it demolished.

“You know the building wasn’t a great work of architecture – no one would argue that,” said Bardt. “But you know it represents a moment in American history, that is vanishing: the moment when our dreams of a great society emerged out of the political arena.”

These days politicians and residents may be more concerned about the economy than thought-provoking architecture. Providence’s Downtown Design Review Committee has given the green light for an eight-story hotel, one of several steps needed to replace the Fogarty Building.

As to the proposed hotel’s design? Bardt considers it generic. But he says for a city whose economy is still on its heels, design may have to take a backseat.

A spokesperson for the developer, The Proccianti Group, says construction on the new hotel could begin as early as this fall.

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In Providence, Distinctive Downtown Architecture Faces Certain Demolition
In Providence, Distinctive Downtown Architecture Faces Certain Demolition