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This is really a remarkable building for Providence, utterly unlike anything else here. This was the country’s first fully automated postal-sorting system, designed by Vanderweil Engineers (Boston). Maguire and Associates’ architectural response, especially the complex parabolic roof structure, shows a desire for the building’s design to reflect externally as well as to accommodate internally the innovative activity. There’s more than a hint here of Eero Saarinen’s Trans World Airlines Terminal (1956-62) at Kennedy (then Idlewild) Airport in New York. TWA’s lusciously organic massing is nowhere in evidence, of course, and the swooping roof forms are imposed on a regularized grid plan. Moreover, Saarinen’s use of extensive glazing is replaced here with blank walls and, on the façade, ribbon windows. It’s almost as though this were the love child of Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe. While too big to be considered delightfully quirky, it is an interesting, unusual, and highly visible landmark that should be better appreciated than it is.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

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© 2023 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.