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The Architects Collaborative’s Brutalist reinforced-concrete-and-brick-spandrel complex enfolds and dominates the original E-plan Central High School from the 1920s, a really pedestrian effort by Hoppin & Ely in their twilight years. One wishes for more from each. The 1921 building lost its context with its Brutalist envelopment, which lacks the vigor of the best examples of mid-1960s structural expressionism. The whole complex suffers mightily from the lack of understanding by current administrators. Who’d put a trash receptacle by the front door – if it is the front door? This complex was meant to serve as an inspirational setting for imparting knowledge, as were many bold mid-century Modernist architectural statements, but the spark that ignited this once-shining statement faded long ago. The Modernist vision here, once intended to challenge, now merely defeats. It’s no wonder Modernism has gotten a bad reputation in Rhode Island. Especially when one looks across the street at the wan epigone of the Dr. Robert F. Roberti Administration Building (Brutalism Lite?) at 797 Westminster Street and its sad echo, the Paramount Office Supply Building, 819 Westminster Street.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

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Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.