Library, Community Center, and Greenspace with Retail
Providence, RI, USA
The origins of the word ‘Scrape’ as it relates to this project are multiple. The interdimensionality of such words are exactly why I find myself drawn to them. As it relates to this site, sitting in West Downtown Providence, straddled by Weybossett and Empire Street on the Southern and Western diagonals, ‘Scrape’ is unignorably linked to the current and historical uses of the space.
Formerly a bussling corner on the way out of Downtown, the site was filled with a plethora of structures - including multiple inns, laundries, shops, and a large baptist church. These all stood on former marshland, covered and graded for the construction of Downtown Providence throughout the 19th Century. In fact this site sits at the transition between the former marsh and the slope up to Federal Hill.
This transition from Indigeneous American marshland to bustling Euro-Industrial American city marks the first ‘Scrape’ this space experienced. Over a century later, the site was scoured twice more within a decade. First, for the construction of Empire Street in the early 60s - tearing through the Western Half of the site. Second, a few years later, around 1970 - the remainder of the site was cleared for the construction of the existing garage and parking lot in relation to I.M.Pei’s adjacent ‘Cathedral Square’ developement. With this in mind - I chose to explore the formalized nature of the site’s memory itself for its fourth ‘Scrape.’ The many lives of the site - bustling with animal life, pedestrian life, then finally auto life, are all deeply tied to the architectural and human conditions of the space, and therefore beg to be incorporated into the site’s next use - pulled to the surface, mixed togther, torn apart, reimagined.
Jumping off from my historical and existing spatial explorations, I began by asking a few questions. How does the nature of scraping apart a city in the name of progress - especially around the introduction of the automobile - effect the interpersonal and pedestrian characteristics of an urban space? How do and can pedestrians and communities relate to stark, modal, and ‘Scraping’ architecture? ...
... How can Architecture tear through a space in a benefitial way as well as a destructive way? What should be scraped away and what should be protected? With these spatial memories and questions in mind - the most influential early decision made was to keep the existing single story garage structure (most of it anyways). Raising this question of what is actually important to keep and what should be scraped away, deeply drove the continuation of the project.
Perspective from Back gate
The site acts as a snapshot of a larger network of scars and scrapes across the urban landscape. The ‘edges’ of the site are rigid and enclosing to emphasise the project as a an arbitrarily designated peice (based merely on a plethora of unknowing and disconnected decisions) in a system of interconnected urban architecture, as well as contrasting the effected, carved nature of the ‘Scrape’ itself, moving across the center of the site. Finally, the edge element alludes to the former street walls formalized by the 19th century buildings previous to the space. As I began to explore the architectural dimensions of a ‘torn,’ ‘scarred’ building, I initially considered the programmatic flow as a procession of typological spaces grouped based on ones goal as they begin the act of moving through the structure.
Additionally, on each level, spaces and forms are defined by their relationship to the ‘Scrape.’ The outside ‘Edges’ of the building follow a more predictable, commonplace langauge of rigidity while the abraded spaces towards the core of the erosion are more open, grand and irregular - as well as often providing central passages for verticle navigation.
Following the survey of three distinct processions through the structure - I learned numerous methods for sucessive and vertically traversing spaces that feel cohesive and natural - yet the ‘scrapped’ nature of the building begged for these processions to heavily interact. Freed from this restriction of entirely distinct elements of movement, the building was able to more effectively scrape its parts toghether into distinctive yet integrated sequences. The lacerated spaces therefore act as ‘scrapes’ on multiple dimensions: formally defined by their torn character meanwhile pulling the patrons, employees, and uses of the structure into a frictional communication in several key spaces across the building.
The building itself - in its most synthesized form - is a multifaceted ‘Scrape.’ The building is a peice of a larger, gestural scratch across the site, peeling and exposing the layers of idea, material, and memory. Individually, each procession through the structure sweeps back and forth as it scrapes upwards - interacting with the hard edge, the carved away gardens and courtyards, and other processions. Simultaneously opposing and syncronizing with the nature of modal and monumental architecture in its reality in the contemporary world, this building is not only an exploration of the layering, spatial qualities, and multdimensionality of a scraped stack of paper - but an experiential and emotive study of the imposing, effectual, and destructive power of architecture.