PODCAST: Citizens Bank Looking at Superman Building for Corporate Headquarters
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Superman building - Providence's tallest building - has been vacant since its last tenant, Bank of America, moved out of the iconic structure in March 2013, leaving Providence with a massive black mark on its landscape. The building is located at 111 Westminster Street.
Related Slideshow: The 10 Buildings that Need to Be Torn Down
The ten buildings that need to be torn down as of November 9th, 2014 as listed by David Brussat in Dr. Downtown.
The Industrial Trust Bank Building
Popularly known as the “Superman Building,” the Art Deco gem completed in 1928 has been placed on this list in order to remove it from consideration. Even without renovation it will last for decades, girding up the city’s flagging character. To demolish this icon, as some suggest, would be to cut off our nose to spite our face. The doctor assumes it will be fixed up long before it falls down. They don’t build ’em like the used to – and that’s the last time you’ll see that cliché on this list!
This blotch of God’s wrath on architecture deserves top billing on anybody’s list of 10 least wanted buildings. Completed in 2005, it is ugly without fulfilling any of the other aspirations of modernism. It is a drag on Waterplace Park. It blocks views from Waterplace of Providence Place – which some would tear down for blocking views of the State House. (Who knows how many lives the mall has saved by drawing the attention of drivers from architecture to traffic.)
Waterplace Luxury Towers
Might as well not tear GTECH down if you don’t demolish these two, completed in 2008. Unlike the GTECH abomination, at least these buildings, also next to Waterplace, look like buildings. To Dr. Downtown’s bafflement, they are disliked even more than GTECH by many people. Maybe that’s because while these days one expects an office building to be unattractive, one holds out more hope for residential architecture – so the disappointment cuts more sharply.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of R.I
Although fairly alluring for a modernist tower, with its curvaceous façades, our most recent office tower should nevertheless be torn down. The city should return to a blank slate at Waterplace Park, where four suburban office pod towers now surround Waterplace and sit awkwardly near the elegant river walks and bridges, undermining Bill Warner’s beautiful and hence path breaking (for our benighted era) riverfront design.
One Citizens Plaza
In for a dime, in for a dollar. Zap the Darth Vader Building. Completed in 1991, it is worth looking at only for brief moments on rare days when the late sun glints from a certain angle off its triangulation. Mostly it glowers up and down the rivers. It also blocks views of the State House from the Providence River. That’s so much worse than blocking views of the State House from Route 95.
Old Stone Square
The Rubik’s Cube, designed by modernist icon Edward Larrabee Barnes, opened in 1985. It may represent the high water mark of modern architecture in Providence. Its cubic massing, with cubes cut out of upper and lower quadrants, satisfies the modernist mania to combine simplicity and novelty. It fits into modernist thinking by not fitting into its historic context. It is the city’s worst sore thumb.
The addition to the RISD Museum of Art degrades the city’s historic environment from two directions. Designed by starchitect Rafael Moneo and completed in 2008, the blank plasticky gray façade acts as graffiti on North Main Street, marring artistry that reaches back centuries. And its flat roof obtrudes its out-of-kilter orangey brick into a long horizon of brick pediments and soaring spires from the south along the Providence River. Moneo is well known for “working in historic contexts.” This refers to his talent for getting civic leaders to let him destroy priceless historic treasures.
Broadcast House (JWU)
Also known as the East German Embassy for its glassy-eyed hidden-camera façade along Dorrance Street, the building that now houses the library of Johnson & Wales University was completed in 1979 on the site of the old Narragansett Hotel. It proves that windows along a street do not necessarily enhance urbanity. Its survival marrs the beauty of JWU’s Gaebe Commons and the intersection of Dorrance and Weybosset streets.
Photo by David Brussat
The Howard Building
Sitting at the southwest corner of Kennedy Plaza, this hulk is too squat to contribute, as several modernist towers actually do, to the downtown’s impressive skyline crescendo. An effort in the 1990s to reconceptualize its dull concrete façades with bad “classical” appliqué only made it worse. Put it out of its misery.
Providence Journal garage
This 1957 addition, jutting toward the northwest corner of Kennedy Plaza at Emmett Square, pecks ignominiously at the city’s central civic space, not to mention the Journal’s own neo-Georgian headquarters building, built in 1933. The elegance of the symbolism is no excuse, however, for the continued presence of the structure itself. Off with its head.
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