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Distributed March 31, 2004
Contact Mary Jo Curtis

April 14 to May 31, 2004
What might have been: Bell Gallery to exhibit Unbuilt Providence

The David Winton Bell Gallery will host a new exhibition, titled Unbuilt Providence: Architectural Visions, 1856 to 2000, April 14 through May 31, 2004. A reception and a lecture by guest curator Dietrich Neumann are set for Friday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. in the List Art Center, 64 College St. Both events are free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The David Winton Bell Gallery will show a “Providence that might have been” when it presents a new exhibition, Unbuilt Providence: Architectural Visions, 1856 to 2000, from April 14 through May 31, 2004.

A reception, with a lecture by guest curator and Dietrich Neumann, professor of the history of art and architecture at Brown, is scheduled for Friday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. in the List Art Center. Both the exhibition and the reception are free and open to the public.


The unbuilt campus
In 1960, architect I.M. Pei proposed this building for geology and mathematics at Brown. (Ink drawing on paper mounted on board, 19 1/2 x 31 3/4 inches. Lent by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects L.L.P.)

Unbuilt Providence features drawings and models of buildings and urban designs for the city that were considered during the last 150 years but never executed. These rarely seen works – often of considerable artistic merit – document great ambitions, personal flights of fancy and sweeping urban visions. They are an important part of the architectural history of our city.

“The reasons why these designs remained fiction are manifold. Some lost to supposedly better projects in a competition; others were unsolicited visions that had little chance of realization at the time,” said Neumann. “But they all speak of the lively architectural culture that Providence has enjoyed for a very long time – and of the city’s ambitions and love for change. Again and again the city attracted architects of national reputation. In several cases it offered them a testing ground for new ideas.”


A milestone that might have been
Thomas Tefft proposed this Project for Merchants’ Exchange in 1856. Had it been built, said curator Dietrich Neumann, it would today be considered a milestone of American architecture. (Ink and watercolor on paper, 26 x 30 inches. Lent by the Brown University Archive, John Hay Library.)

Among the proposals featured in the exhibit is one for Brown University, in which I. M. Pei experimented with an aesthetic that he would apply successfully in later projects, culminating in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Another, the “Steps of Providence” by Jorge Silvetti and Rodolfo Machado, provided inspiration for Rafael Moneo’s recent design for a new addition to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. Felix Candela’s stadium design, which foreshadowed later solutions for wide-span roofs, will also be displayed, along with Raymond Hood’s plans for a skyscraper, which launched his career as America’s pre-eminent skyscraper designer of the 1930s.

“In some cases we may gratefully acknowledge the wisdom or the circumstances that prevented the completion of these project, while in others we mourn the paths not taken,” said Neumann. “If Thomas Tefft’s exchange had been built in 1856, if William Lescaze’s Soldier’s and Sailor’s Memorial had won the 1926 competition, or if the time had been ripe for Donald Judd’s 1984 redesign of Kennedy Plaza, they would today be considered milestones in American architecture.”

This exhibition grew out of seminars in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture offered at Brown in 2002 and 2003. Support for the exhibition was provided by Chancellor Emeritus Artemis Joukowsky, the Dean of the College, the Department of the History of Art and Architecture and the Creative Arts Council.

The Bell Gallery is located on the first floor of the List Art Center, 64 College St. It is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. For more in-formation, call (401) 863-2932.


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