Date October 11, 2016
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Award-winning architects selected for two new Brown building projects

Toshiko Mori will design a new building to expand the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and Anmahian Winton Architects will design the renovation of Wilson Hall.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University has selected two award-winning architectural teams to design an expansion of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and the renovation of Wilson Hall, a 125-year-old classroom building on the College Green.

New York City-based Toshiko Mori will design a 20,000-square-foot building adjacent to the current Watson Institute building, which will expand classroom and research space. Anmahian Winton Architects, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will design the renovation of Wilson Hall, which will update interior spaces and improve building accessibility for those with disabilities.

“These building projects are instrumental in helping us to advance our goals of promoting a vibrant academic community and ensuring exceptional teaching and research across the disciplines to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges,” said Brown Provost Richard M. Locke. “They will also enhance the campus, integrating modern design while preserving iconic historic spaces and honoring the University’s aesthetic.”

Expanding and enhancing the Watson Institute

Toshiko Mori, lauded by Architectural Digest for her “precise eye for balance and proportion” and “fresh spin on modernism, incorporating innovative materials and exploring vernacular building types,” has designed for Brown before, for the renovation of 85 Waterman in 2014, which houses the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, and the renovation of Pembroke Hall in 2008. 

Mori’s prolific institutional work includes Syracuse University’s engineering school building, the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the A.R.T. New York Theater in New York City.

A professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Mori has designed projects in Taiwan, China, Austria, Peru and — most recently — in the Senegalese village of Sinthian, where she designed a community center and artist residence in collaboration with her students. Her work has been honored with multiple awards from the American Institute of Architects, Architectural Digest and the World Architecture Festival, among others.

“Toshiko Mori's international perspective and understanding of the mission of the Watson Institute, of the site and of the programmatic and architectural issues, along with the exceptional quality of her architectural design work, were the factors that led the selection committee to choose her for this important assignment,” said Collette Creppell, Brown University architect.

The Watson Institute expansion includes the renovation of 65 Charlesfield, a 10,000-square-foot, three-story historic structure on the corner of Charlesfield and Brook Streets, and 20,000 square feet in new construction adjacent to the current institute at 111 Thayer St. The new building will accommodate the Watson Institute’s regional programs, an 80-person classroom and new spaces for interaction and intellectual exchange.  

Starr Plaza, the green space behind the current Watson building, will be enhanced and sit at the center of a quad formed by the current center, the new planned structure, the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at 59 Charlesfield and 65 Charlesfield St. 

“The new Watson building will do far more than just provide space for our expanding research and educational programs,” said Edward Steinfeld, Watson Institute director. “Rather, in its design, the new building will anchor the Watson community’s aspiration to be more inclusive and integrative across everything we do. With the completion of the new building on the west side of Starr Plaza, our dream is that the Watson Institute quad will become a new gateway to the Brown campus and a major new campus destination for all members of the Brown community.”

The project is funded as part of a $50 million gift from a group of longtime Watson Institute supporters: alumnus Stephen Robert, former chairman and CEO of Oppenheimer & Co. and chancellor emeritus of Brown; Alice Tisch, a trustee of New York University Langone Medical Center and the Museum of Modern Art, and Thomas Tisch, a Brown alumnus and managing partner of investment firm Four Partners, who culminated nearly a decade as the University’s chancellor earlier this year; and the Thomas J. and Olive C. Watson Jr. Foundation, administered by David McKinney, retired senior vice president of IBM and retired president of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Approximately $25 million of the new gift will be used to fund the new space. Pending review and approval of Brown's new institutional master plan by the City of Providence, which includes the Watson Institute expansion, work will begin in June 2017 with completion anticipated by the end of December 2018. 

A more modern and user-friendly Wilson

Anmahian Winton Architects, whose principal architect, Nick Winton, is a Brown alumnus, will design renovations for Wilson Hall, among the most heavily used classroom buildings on campus. The firm worked previously at Brown in designing the 2008 renovation of Rhode Island Hall, which houses the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.

The firm, known for its unique attention to the cultural context of the sites in which it works, has designed projects ranging from a private observatory on a mountainside in New Hampshire, to the Northern Avenue Bridge in Boston, to the new American Indian Learning Resource Center at the University of Minnesota – Duluth and — perhaps its best known work — the Community Rowing Boathouse in Boston, the country’s largest public rowing facility. The firm has been honored with architectural awards from the American Institute of Architects, the Society for College and University Planning and the American Architecture Prize, among others.

The Wilson Hall renovation will be a complete “gut renovation” of the building that preserves the historic exterior but completely modernizes the interior, creating seven new large classrooms that can be configured in a variety of ways. The building will be fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and have modernized building systems. 

“The work of the firm, with Nick Winton as principal in charge, promises to bring creativity in addressing the challenge of maintaining Wilson as an iconic building while renovating and modernizing its interiors, enhancing its public spaces and transforming the classroom space within the building,” Creppell said.

Construction of Wilson Hall is slated to begin in June 2017 with completion scheduled for fall 2018. The project will be funded with dollars raised through the University’s BrownTogether campaign. To meet the demand for classroom space during the renovations to Wilson, the University will maximize usage of existing classroom space by implementing a new scheduling program across campus teaching spaces as well as more closely aligning class sizes with classroom seat counts.