Built on the site of a former parking lot, the Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) new Chace Center hugs the corner of North Main and College Streets, balancing monumentality with deference toward its adjacent historic buildings. Set to open to the public on September 27, the 43,000-square-foot museum was designed by the Madrid-based Pritzker Prize–winning architect Jose Rafael Moneo and will house traveling exhibitions as well as the well-known prints, drawings, and photography collections, which are widely used by faculty and students. It will also include student exhibition space, a 200-seat auditorium, a café, and retail space, including RISD|works, which sells art and design objects by alumni of the school.
Due to the tight site conditions, the architects combined the entrance and loading dock area along North Main Street, creating a new public plaza. The mostly glazed facade includes thick horizontal and vertical brick bands that help tie it to the surrounding architecture. The upper glazed portion includes both clear and etched glass broken by aluminum fins. The existing Beaux-Arts museum building has been restored and reconfigured, providing more space to hang the permanent collection.
“The new building is unassuming but not meek,” said Hayden Salter, project architect for Moneo. “So much new campus architecture is so unresponsive to its site. We tried to balance the aspirations of the university with the needs of the city.” With greater street front prominence, the LEED-certified building gives the museum greater visibility in Providence and, officials hope, beyond.