US Building of the Week
Roger Williams Park Gateway Center
20. November 2023
Photo: Steve Kroodsma
A gateway should provide access — literally, an opening — but also present a strong image that attracts people toward it. The Roger Williams Park Gateway Center achieves both of these: acting as a point of entry for the eponymous historic park and making a bold statement with colorful fins inspired by the street it faces, as explained by INFORM Studio in a short Q&A.
Location: Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Client: Providence Redevelopment Agency
Architect: INFORM Studio
- Design Principals: Michael Guthrie, Cory Lavigne
- Project Architect: Jarett Rogin
- Electrical Engineer: Mitch Armbruster
Structural Engineer: Atlantes Design
Mechanical Engineer: GreenPath Design
Electrical Engineer: INFORM Studio
Civil Engineer: Green International Affiliates
General Contractor: TAVARES Construction, LLC
Fabricator (fins): SITU Fabrication
Site Area: 36,237 sf
Building Area: 1,200 sf
Photo: Steve KroodsmaWhat were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
INFORM Studio and landscape architect Design Under Sky won a 2019 design competition organized by the City of Providence. INFORM responded to an initial RFQ put out by the city’s Providence Redevelopment Agency in July of 2019 asking to design a prominent new Roger Williams Park Broad Street Gateway and Visitor’s Center on the long vacant El Fogon property at 1197-1201 Broad Street. Five teams were shortlisted, given $500 stipends and one month to respond to an RFP with initial designs. They presented their designs to the public in October of 2019 for feedback before the city made their final selection. The project received financial support from the Providence Redevelopment Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, and RIHousing’s Property Acquisition and Revitalization Program.
Photo: Steve KroodsmaPlease provide an overview of the project.
Located in Providence, Rhode Island, the Roger Williams Park Gateway Center opened in October 2022 and provides a new urban park, visitor center, and northern entry point into the historic Roger Williams Park. The site marks the midpoint of a cultural corridor that began to form over 60 years ago, transitioning into a diverse and proud Latino community. The design response aims to preserve identity and inclusivity, developing a welcoming gateway for residents and visitors and serving as an economic catalyst along Broad Street. Designed on a formerly vacant site on Broad Street, the park provides ample flexibility for both small and large gatherings, recreational events, nature walks, vendor and food truck parking.
Photos: Steve KroodsmaWhat are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
The iconic gateway design involves large colorful fins fabricated in steel. It pays homage to the vibrant colors of local parades and festivals, and draws upon the energetic facades of homes and Latino businesses which line Broad Street. Fin orientation and form intentionally convey a sense of connectivity and linkage as a singular dynamic gesture towards the adjacent Roger Williams Park property. Parametric design tools furthered an iterative process allowing our team to test and refine the alignment, morphology, and spacing of the fins along the cantilevered superstructure to optimize the final design outcome and respond to the photovoltaic mounting condition.
Monolithic limestone walls of the entry gateway recall the classical design of the Roger Williams Park Temple of Music and create a thermal mass. This allows the walls to store and release heat, reducing heating demands and temperature fluctuations in the building using a passive solar strategy. The visitor center building houses an information desk, gallery space, restrooms, and an outdoor patio. The gallery is design to be a fully accessible and flexible space that can host events and educational opportunities with easily arranged partitions and furniture.
Photo: Steve KroodsmaHow does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
By seamlessly merging with the street, the Gateway Center eliminates the once-prominent boundaries and barriers that separated the park from Broad Street. This impressive structure honors the lively and dynamic colors of the many parades and
festivals that take place on Broad Street, as well as the facades of the businesses that line it. The use of a diverse array of multicolored fins not only adds a striking visual
element to the building, but also serves as a warm and inviting gesture to welcome all who visit.
Photo: Steve KroodsmaWas the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?
Aligning with the City of Providence’s Green Initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, this net-zero-energy project provides on-site photovoltaic energy production ensuring that no fossil fuels will be used to power the facility or site. The project also employs a passive stormwater management system, easing the burden on the city and mitigating water runoff through native drought tolerant planting and impervious paving.
Email interview conducted by John Hill.