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Explore the transformation of South Street Landing, formerly known as 'The Narragansett Electric Company Power Station,' in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island. Learn how this collaborative project between DBVW Architects and Existing Conditions overcame challenges tied to the building's history and focused on existing architectural features rather than concealing them. This project stands as a testament to the power of 3D laser scanning and historical preservation, helping to reshape the neighborhood and local community.

Watch the case study video and delve deeper into the project at South Street Landing hearing valuable insights from Founder & CEO of Existing Conditions, Kurt Yeghian, President of Existing Conditions, Jared Curtis, and Principal at DBVW Architects, Pierson Booher.

 

History of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium

South Street Landing, formerly known as “The Narragansett Electric Company Power Station,” was built in stages between 1912 and 1925 in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island. This space has undergone a remarkable evolution, redefining its purpose while preserving the essence of its historical significance.

Historic image of South Street landing, 1941

Historic image of South Street landing, 1941.

Originally standing as a power station for the growing manufacturing industry, its strategic location along the riverfront contributed to its prominence in the community. Over the years, the space has adapted to the needs of the city, later becoming abandoned in the 1990s once it had been decommissioned. 

In 2013, a consortium of Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, and Rhode Island College had the vision of breathing life back into this building. The space required multiple rounds of renovations to bring it back to its once-known glory. To do this, Tsoi Kobus Design (Architect of Record) and DBVW Architects (Historic Preservation Architect) embraced modern design elements to merge the building's historical features with contemporary functionality. 

 

Partnering with DBVW Architects

The ongoing partnership between Existing Conditions and DBVW Architects has been a continual source of expertise and collaboration in our professional journey. As a long-lasting client, DBVW Architects and our team have cultivated a professional relationship of nearly two and a half decades.

Exterior image of South Street Landing, pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects)

Exterior image of South Street Landing, pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects).

Existing Conditions was selected by DBVW Architects to document the historical South Street Landing site for the South Street Landing project. Our commitment to providing accurate building documentation of the site’s transformation showcased the depth of our team's experience in handling historical projects. This collaboration shows the integration of our expertise with the vision of DBVW Architects, reinforcing our continued partnership.

 

Scope of Work Evolution

DBVW Architects reached out to Existing Conditions in November 2013, requesting documentation of South Street Landing. The project unfolded in several stages, demonstrating a commitment to accurate documentation and collaboration.

3D Revit Model of South Street Landing

3D Revit of South Street Landing.

Our team began scanning on-site in December 2013, amidst the challenges posed by an abandoned and frozen building, the fieldwork was completed within a week, marking the initial phase of data collection. Post-survey, Existing Conditions processed the data, delivering a 3D scan and an updated Building Information Modeling (BIM) model approximately 30 days later, providing a robust foundation for further design considerations.

Exterior Elevation provided by Existing Conditions

Exterior Elevation provided by Existing Conditions.

Recognizing the need for additional building information, we returned to the site in the spring of 2014 and began a second phase of 3D laser scanning, providing the Tsoi Kobus Design & DBVW Architects team with a more comprehensive understanding of the building's design. The approach showcased dedication to precision and adaptability, ensuring the success of the South Street Landing project.

3D point cloud data of South Street Landing.

3D point cloud data of South Street Landing.

 

The Challenge

During the South Street Landing project, DBVW Architects and Existing Conditions faced unique challenges stemming from the building's history and varied conditions. The structure, constructed in nine different phases, presented a distinctive set of issues, including irregular columns, grids, and varying floor heights. Integrating these diverse architectural features while addressing structural and design considerations posed a considerable challenge.

Interior of South Street Landing, pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects).

Interior of South Street Landing, pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects).

In addition to the architectural complexities, the team chose to emphasize and celebrate the existing architecture, making it a character-defining feature. This decision added another layer of precision to the project, requiring a thoughtful and innovative approach to transform the building into a cohesive and vibrant space.

In addition to the architectural complexities, the team chose to emphasize and celebrate the existing architecture, making it a character-defining feature. This decision added another layer of precision to the project, requiring a thoughtful and innovative approach to transform the building into a cohesive and vibrant space.

Interior of South Street Landing, pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects)

Interior of South Street Landing, pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects).

Navigating these challenges while ensuring the integration of existing architectural elements and promoting sustainable design principles demanded a collaborative and adaptive approach from the entire team.

 

The Solution

The South Street Landing project demanded a solution to address its intricate challenges and contribute to the transformation of the historic building. One of the key aspects of resolving the challenges was the collaborative and adaptive approach taken by DBVW Architects and Existing Conditions. The phased nature of the project allowed for an understanding of the building's irregularities.

Practical strategies played a crucial role in overcoming the challenges of the project. The phased scanning process, initiated in 2013 and revisited in 2014, allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the building's conditions. The detailed 3D laser scanning provided highly accurate data collection for DBVW Architects' in-house model. This approach, seamlessly integrating new and old point cloud data, allows the design team to make informed decisions throughout the project.

Interior of South Street Landing pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects)

Interior of South Street Landing pre-renovations (image courtesy of DBVW Architects).

By embracing the unique architectural features and irregularities in the building's structure, the team aimed to integrate and celebrate the existing elements rather than cover them up. This approach not only addressed the structural and design complexities but also contributed to the positive revitalization of the surrounding community.

 

How This Project Was Unique

The uniqueness of the South Street Landing project lies in its transformation from an abandoned building with decades of neglect to a hub for the academic community in Providence. Unlike many buildings of this size and location, South Street Landing presented a distinctive challenge with its history of neglect, irregular architectural features, and a complex construction history spanning nine phases.

Aerial drone imagery of South Street Landing, 2023

Aerial drone imagery of South Street Landing, 2023

One of the project's standout features was the commitment to highlighting the existing architecture rather than covering it up. While it might have been easier to conceal irregular columns, grids, and floor height variations, the decision to include these aspects became a defining characteristic of the South Street Landing transformation. This approach, guided by a dedication to adaptive reuse, set the project apart and made it a positive force in reshaping the neighborhood.

Moreover, the South Street Landing project has a profound impact on the community. The restoration of an abandoned building into an academic space attracted new people and energy to the area. The influx of academic institutions, businesses, and creative entities transformed the neighborhood, contributing to the emergence of a vibrant and creative community.

 

Where Does This Project Stand Now?

South Street Landing in Providence, Rhode Island, has successfully transitioned into an academic center. Once abandoned, the building now accommodates local universities, breathing new life into the neighborhood and providing a positive community impact. The transformation underscores the project's significance in repurposing neglected spaces into valuable spaces for education and community engagement.

Aerial drone imagery of South Street Landing, 2023

Aerial drone imagery of South Street Landing, 2023.

Furthermore, the South Street Landing project had a transformative impact on the surrounding community, introducing an influx of new people and energy. The building, once abandoned for decades, now serves as a hub for academic institutions, contributing positively to the community.

 

About the Client DBVW Architects

DBVW Architects stands as a dynamic firm with 35 dedicated professionals, showcasing expertise in various architectural realms such as historic preservation, affordable housing, institutional projects, high-end residential designs, and commercial endeavors. Their multifaceted approach reflects versatility and ensures a tailored and engaging approach to every project.
Pierson Booher

Pierson Booher, Principal of DBVW Architects (image courtesy of DBVW Architects).

Pierson Booher, a Principal at DBVW Architects, has a keen eye for historic preservation, standing at the forefront of DBVW Architects' preservation projects. With a strong attention to detail and extensive knowledge, he is adept at elevating preservation endeavors from conventional to exceptional. 

DBVW Architects stands out for their client-centric approach, marked by attentive listening, a positive demeanor, and a hands-on methodology. Their values revolve around assisting clients in overcoming challenges through innovative solutions and informed decision-making, all while fostering open and comfortable communication. At the core of DBVW Architects' mission is ensuring that clients not only benefit from their architectural prowess but also relish the entire process leading to a satisfying final solution.

Leverage our state-of-the-art equipment, and expertise, having partnered with top architects nationwide on historic and renovation projects for 25 years, Existing Conditions has a deep portfolio presenting our decades of experience. Let us be your eyes in the field so you can devote your time to what you do best. Schedule a free consultation with us today by clicking here.

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