The Chace Student Center

Excerpted from RISD’;s press release:

As proposed, The Chace Center on North Main Street makes sense of the space at the heart of campus and brings RISD together, both physically and psychologically. With a clearly identifiable entrance facing downtown Providence, the six-story structure will fill the Metcalf parking lot, reconnecting historic RISD buildings in new ways. Once transformed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect José Rafael Moneo, the void now used for parking will become a hub, a place where people come and go, stop for coffee and to talk, exchange ideas and feel refreshed by art.

RISD and Moneo have approached the project as a way of using architecture to clarify and strengthen the institution’s role in 21st century art and design education. The Chace Center will not only afford expanded gallery space and better access to The RISD Museum, it will offer students new studios, classrooms, exhibition and gathering spaces. For the larger community, it will provide a more visible and accessible entryway to RISD – one that is oriented toward the river and downtown Providence. The new facility will also furnish essential community spaces such as an auditorium, a café, a museum shop and public galleries. An atrium for special events will connect the third floor with the main gallery spaces of the RISD museum with a short bridge.

The project also calls for a renovation of Memorial Hall (above the student center on Benefit Street), originally built as a church in 1851 by noted architect Thomas Tefft. The Roman revival interior will be uncovered and restored into painting and drawing studios. Moneo’s considerate approach to this underutilized gem exemplifies his commitment to architectural preservation.


As far as we can tell from the renderings, this building does seem to be a good fit for the lot on which it will stand, both in its utility and in its design. It takes a relatively small space with a fairly disparate agglomeration of architecture, and makes the best of it by rising up to meet College Hill and by continuing the trend of differentness. The building also gives the city an injection of new architecture that it desparately needs, instead of all these “new buildings meant to look old”. The interesting thing to us is the name – as in Elizabeth Chace, Buff’s wife?

More info

About the building -or- About the Architect

Scott Aug 20 2009 Such an ugly and inappropriate building. It will look even uglier in 20 years or so. It will have people asking the same question we ask ourselves today when viewing a building from the 60s or 70s... “What were they thinking?”

Jef Apr 19 2009 I’ve heard it called, or seen it written as, The Malcolm and Happy Chace Center (or some such). I believe the children donated in their honor.

LeoC I am a current student at RISD and have my own thoughts on this building. The design is more interesting inside than out, although I have gotten used to the look of the building’s facade. However, the community here is really opposed to the way the space inside is being planned for use. Some at school wish that the space somehow incorporated a parking structure at its base, parking being something a luxury for most students in Providence. And the Cafe down at street level has most students wondering if the feel of the cafe will be as corporate as that of the rest of the new RISD buildings. Unfortunately due to budget problems, it seems the building will exist only on paper for now, and its unlikely I’ll see it completed before I graduate.

some guy it was originally called the RISD Center – it changed to the Chace Center once they got some serious cash from, yes, Elizabeth and other Chace family members.

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