The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has announced the completion of its multiyear Quad Block enhancement project, now that renovation work on a pair of existing student residence buildings, Homer Hall and South Hall, has wrapped up. The expansive revamps of both Homer Hall and South Hall, built in 1957 and 1985, respectively, along with the completion of the Refractory Dining Facility concludes a larger three-phase master plan to improve the aging residential heart of RISD’s core campus in Providence, the hillside Quad Block located between Brown University and the Providence River.
Boston-based architecture and urban design studio NADAAA led both renovations as well as a refresh of the 117-bed Nickerson Hall (completed in 2020) and the design of an entirely new residence hall, North Hall, which opened in 2019 as part of the first phase of the Quad Block project. That building, the first new residence hall to be completed on the RISD campus in over 30-years, is a six-story, cross-laminated timber (CLT) and steel-frame hybrid structure.
The Quad Block overhaul was somewhat of a family affair as NADAAA’s co-founding principal, the London-born Iranian-American designer and educator Nader Tehrani, is a RISD alumnus. Tehrani, currently dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at Cooper Union, headed the project design team alongside fellow NADAAA principal Arthur Chang. Katherine Faulkner, founding principal alongside Tehrani, was involved with the master plan and the design of North Hall, while Richard Lee, also a RISD alumnus, served as project manager for the Quad Block renovations. Michael Blier (RISD ’86), principal of Landworks Studio Inc., led the landscape design of the freshman quad. Also part of the core Quad Block project team was Shawmut Design and Construction, which worked alongside RISD and NADAAA to execute a collaborative design and construction process using integrated project delivery (IPD) to maximize efficiencies throughout each project phase.
“We are thrilled to complete the Quad block enhancement project and welcome students to these new spaces at the start of fall semester,” said Dave Proulx, interim president of RISD, in a statement. “RISD’s goal throughout the project was to meet the needs of our students while staying true to our broader institutional vision as set forth in RISD’s strategic plan. This project has exceeded our expectations, and many in the RISD community—including students, staff and alumni—have contributed to bringing this vision to fruition.”
As for the renovations at Homer Hall and South Hall, both revolved around dramatically improving the environmental footprint of each building through various sustainability-minded upgrades while also creating new shared social spaces and amenities for the residents of each hall. The renovated Homer Hall now provides 171 beds for students while South Hall provides 63 beds along with a resident apartment.
As detailed in a press release, the Homer Hall renovation also involved the creation of a new south-facing facade along with new and upgraded lounges, multi-function meeting rooms, and other shared facilities including, a new kitchen/vending area, improved central laundry space, and 1,900-square foot open floor workroom. On the sustainability front, energy recovery ventilation units were installed in the attic while the building’s exterior thermal performance was upgraded with new windows and insulation. LED lighting and water-conserving fixtures were also installed among a suite of other upgrades.
Across the way at South Hall, new and upgraded lobbies and shared spaces, including a 400-square-foot open workroom and communal kitchen space, were created while space was also carved out for a dedicated office for RISD Public Safety. The building’s mechanical systems were also upgraded for improved energy efficiency while the fire alarm system, lighting, and elevator were modernized or fully replaced. A new wheelchair access added as part of the renovation provides access between the 80s-era residence hall and its older, larger neighbor, Homer Hall.
Earlier this year, RISD announced it would embark on a series of significant upgrades, largely infrastructural, at the historic Jesse Metcalf Building, a 68,730-square-foot former textiles factory that has served as a central hub of activity for the school since 1917. That undertaking is being made possible by a $4 million gift from an anonymous donor and will be followed by other future phases of major rehabilitation work funded by capital funds and additional philanthropic gifts.