PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —In two critical steps toward realizing its vision to create a cutting-edge performing arts center (PAC) on campus, Brown University has selected an award-winning architecture firm to design the building and has approved its site adjacent to other arts-centered academic facilities in the heart of its campus.
The University will work with New York City-based REX, known for its imaginative approach to cultural buildings, to design the PAC. The building will be located on Brown’s College Hill campus in Providence, R.I., between Angell and Waterman streets on the west side of The Walk, a series of linked green spaces that intersect campus.
“We’re excited to work with architects with the stature and experience to bring life to our vision for a state-of-the-art home for the performing arts,” University President Christina Paxson said. “This new center will build on Brown’s rich arts heritage, serve as a venue for both traditional and groundbreaking new works, and strengthen our connection to the greater community.”
Both the architect and site selections were approved in votes by the Corporation of Brown University at its annual Commencement week meeting on May 25 and 26.
Design for the performing arts
REX is led by Joshua Prince-Ramus, who was a founding partner of OMA New York, the U.S. affiliate for the Office of Metropolitan Architecture in the Netherlands, founded by architect Rem Koolhaas. Prince-Ramus rebranded OMA New York as REX in 2006, and the firm’s portfolio includes pioneering cultural buildings such as the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center site in New York, and the Seattle Central Library.
Professor of Music Joseph Butch Rovan, who leads the University’s recently launched Brown Arts Initiative (BAI), participated in the rigorous three-month process to select an architect to design the facility, which will serve as a hub for music, dance, theater and multimedia arts on campus.
“We are thrilled by the prospect of working with Joshua Prince-Ramus and the team at REX,” Rovan said. “They have demonstrated an ability to get to the essence of who we are, as an institution and as people. Their penetrating intellectual and creative approach to process is one of the many reasons they’re a great fit for Brown and for the performing arts center project.”
The vision for the PAC includes a major performance hall and reconfigurable spaces that can accommodate both large-scale and intimate performances and projects.
University Architect Collette Creppell, who organized the selection process in support of the architect selection committee, said that the University sought a firm that understood the vision for the center, both from a technical and programmatic standpoint, and as a central hub for the arts — “a place that promotes experimentation and engages students working in all areas of study, as well as the broader community.”
“REX’s innovative and insightful approach to design discovers new paradigms for expressing the program in built form,” Creppell said. “The firm’s architects intensively explore the issue of fabrication in the making of architecture and bring fresh perspectives to the site context.”
Brown’s selection committee also sought a firm with a history of design excellence. At REX and with the former OMA, Prince-Ramus has designed visually arresting cultural and performance spaces with groundbreaking functionalities that have been honored with awards from the American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology, the American Council of Engineering Companies and many other organizations.
Many of REX’s projects embrace the need for flexibility, a key design component for the PAC at Brown. The Wyly Theatre, for example, features stacked facilities that can be reconfigured mechanically. The theater space can be transformed for performances that require a proscenium, a floor-level stage, arena or other layout to suit production needs. Likewise, the Perelman Center’s design is technologically advanced and flexible, with performance spaces that can be configured for a variety of performance formats.