For Brown’s center for interdisciplinary international studies, the university sought star quality and engaging the internationally reputed architect Rafeal Vinoly. But not every one of Meryl Streep’s performances rates an Oscar. This building, however, deserves closer scrutiny than suggested by its façade, perhaps its least admirable component. The building’s biggest problems visually are the oddly configured windows and its use of brick, surely an attempt (albeit misguided) to echo the brick presence of Wriston Quadrangle across the street. The exterior’s side and rear elevations and its interior are another story. The crystalline staircases on the north and south elevations, and the similarly highly glazed library and meeting room in the north and south wings girding the bamboo-lined courtyard, are dazzlers – both as seen from outside and as experienced spatially within. The interior’s linear working space, along an axis parallel to Thayer Street, is lined with offices and small meeting rooms across a narrow open space connected on the second story by a bridge for easier movement. The interior’s use of materials – especially wood, concrete, and the aforementioned glass – greatly enhances the variously configured spaces, public and private. While it’s no award winner, it has much to commend it and represents a great improvement in architectural quality over what Brown had been building for much of the late twentieth century.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture