Providence Preservation Society 2012 Symposium

Saturday, October 06, 2012


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Known colloquially as The Superman Building, the Providence landmark will serve as the setting for a soiree as part of the Providence Preservation Society's 2012 Providence Symposium.

Before the Providence Preservation Society gets its 2012 Providence Symposium underway, it's going to host a talk about the Superman Building's once-planned status as an airship dock. At Symposium's end, the organization will host a swanky party in that iconic Providence Building. Both events are open to the public.

Airships and Providence

The prequel to this year's symposium kicks off on Tuesday, October 9, with RISD faculty member Matthew D. Bird reprising his popular talk, "A View from the Clouds: the Skyscraper & the Airship." Bird will speak The Brick Schoolhouse at 24 Meeting Street at 6:30pm (6pm reception). The event is free for PPS members and $5 for non-members.

Skyscraper Club Party

Get a chance to check out little-seen spaces in Providence's beloved Superman Building, on Saturday, October 13. The party kicks off with a patron's reception from 6-8pm in the private dining room on the 25th floor, followed by a "Deco-Disco" from 8-11pm in the buildling's Gotham Style Marble Banking Hall, featuring "snazzy snacks" and signature cocktails. Tickets are available online at or by calling 401-831-7440. l

2012 Symposium

The Providence Preservation Society’s 2012 Providence Symposium brings together a diverse group of speakers on October 11 – 13, 2012 in downtown Providence to examine both the past and future of the Historic Preservation movement in the city. This year’s event, entitled Not Always Pretty: Behind the Façade of Historic Preservation in Providence, will provoke and challenge assumptions about preservation, explore how the actions of the past can be instrumental in charting the course of the future, and where preservation can be a positive force in urban planning, neighborhood development and the economy.

“The unparalleled beauty of Providence’s restored streetscapes masks a movement that has often relied upon unusual politics, uncomfortable compromises, and unpredictable alliances,” states James Hall, Executive Director, Providence Preservation Society.  “As the idea of preservation in Providence has matured, so have our practices. We have often celebrated the who of preservation, but the why and the how tell a much more nuanced, complicated, and sometimes less pretty story.”

Symposium sessions

Session topics include Tough Choices: The Policies and Politics of Historic Preservation where a panel of city and institutional planners, preservationists and developers will reflect on what aspects in the evolution of cities and neighborhoods are necessary to preserve, how these conclusions are made and who makes these decisions; It’s Not Easy Being Green: Sustainability and Historic Preservation with architects, environmentalists and developers exploring the challenges with historic preservation guidelines that do not always agree with the ever necessary green energy efforts; From Modernist Monuments to Concrete Carbuncles: The Challenges of Preserving Brutalist Architecture with featured speaker Brian Sirman discussing whether what we perceive as “ugly” architecture holds significance for our city;  and The Triple-Decker Menace where returning speaker C. Morgan Grefe will discuss the uncomfortable stories related to the immigrant settlement and working class construction that surged in the days of the Industrial Revolution.

“Not Always Pretty symposium speakers, panels, and special events invite attendees to consider the obscure characters, locations, and plot twists in the story of Providence’s preservation - and to grapple with the issues that make preservation as difficult as it is rewarding for the architects, homeowners, and historians who engage in it,” said R. Tripp Evans, Ph.D., Professor of Art and Art History at Wheaton College and Co-Chair of the 2012 Providence Symposium committee.

More events

The 2012 Providence Symposium schedule spans over three days, beginning with a free film screening of Southside: The Fall and Rise of an Inner City Neighborhood on Thursday, October 11 at 6:30 pm at the RISD Museum Chace Center Metcalf Auditorium. A full day of featured speakers and panel discussions will happen on Friday, October 12 at three locations in downtown Providence – the Department of Planning and Development at 444 Westminster Street, AS220 at 115 Empire Street, and the offices of Northeast Collaborative Architects at 333 Westminster Street – followed by a special Providence Athenaeum Salon entitled A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture, and cocktail reception at the Handicraft Club on College Street. A closing plenary takes place Saturday morning, October 13, followed by free walking tours until early afternoon.

Tickets for the Symposium for both Friday and Saturday are $100; Friday only $75; and Saturday only $40. Student rates are available. AIA, APA and Realtor credits are also available. For more information, visit, or call 401-831-7440.


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