This is by far the most problematic of Providence’s open spaces. Designed by I.M. Pei and Zion & Breen, this was intended to be a marvelous piazza, inspired by European models, the forecourt for Providence’s most monumental and important church, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Keeley’s superb Providence valediction and the seat of the state’s largest religious community. Pei was one of the most prominent architects and urban planners of the mid-twentieth century, and Zion and Breen were equally the prominent landscape designers. But what a loser this is! European open spaces rely on activity generators for liveliness. So what was the first building constructed to define the new space? E.F. Kennedy’s Roman Catholic Chancery Office and Auditorium (1966-67), a stultifying structure that few regularly visit, blocks the axis of Westminster Street, and drains in space itself, which was not all that bad in and of itself, makes it a destination worth seeing. It’s oddly ironic that De Pasquale Street, a minor end of minor street decorated with kitschy street furniture, has gloriously fulfilled the urbanistic expectations that this square, designed by world-class architects, never even been approached.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture