Urban Planet discussion thread on the design and progress of this project.

GTECH’s new world headquarters will be built at the corner of Memorial Boulevard and Francis Street, directly across the street from the Providence Place mall. It is expected to be finished in 2006. The Boston architectural firm of Spagnolo Gisness & Associates was still tossing around design ideas as late as December 2004. Spagnolo said the building will be “innovative” and “contemporary” as well as “respectful of its neighbors.”

Spagnolo Gisness & Associates conceived the Staples offices in Framingham, Mass, and the NSTAR headquarters in Westwood, Mass. A.I.R. visited the company's website and I must say, we were not impressed with their idea of contemporary. Very boxy, bricky, glassy stuff we’ve seen since the 80s.

“What’s really important with [the GTECH property] – it’s a gateway site to the Capital Center,” Spagnolo said, noting that one of the downtown exit ramps from Route 95 dumps drivers in front of the property – their first glimpse of downtown Providence. That’s what we are worried about.

Spagnolo said he and his team have been talking about a building featuring a “high-performance glass system” and timeless materials such as stone. GTECH has previously said that it wants to build an 8- to 10-story building with on-site parking for 450 cars.

The Capital Center Commission oversees the development of the 77-acre Capital Center District, which rings the State House. Its Design Review Committee must approve any development in the area. The committee does not prohibit certain types of design, but it does work hard to make sure all new development “fits” with the Capital Center’s existing properties and looks timeless, said Wilfred L. Gates Jr., chairman of the panel.

“What we are looking for is architecture that has a sense of permanence and importance – so it will stay fresh for a long period,” Gates said. “The GTECH building is in a critically important location and the committee has stated to GTECH that we’re seeking a gateway statement of some substance that recognizes that this is one of the first impressions that visitors arriving in Providence will have.”

GTECH is moving downtown from West Greenwich to fulfill its part of a 20-year lottery deal it signed with the state last year. To stop GTECH from moving its more than 900 employees to Massachusetts, Rhode Island offered the company a contract to run the state lottery for the next two decades – an offer worth about $770 million. In return, GTECH agreed to stay in Rhode Island and move its corporate headquarters to Providence.

Pile driving has not been heard in the Capital Center since the 1990s, when construction started on Providence Place. And the last time a group of business and government leaders gathered to mark the groundbreaking of a corporate office building in the capital center was for the Citizens Bank building in March 1988.

Gravity Games 1999 from

fun fact

This site figured prominently in the 1999 Gravity Games held in Providence as the main competition area for street-style BMX and Skateboarding. Some great photos here and even more here.

KM I have to agree with everyone – including the notion that modern and traditional buildings can co-exist… however, this is over the top. Its not modern, its cheap looking. The glowing “GTECH” beacon is just the icing on the already tacky cake. Its horrifying. However, with a little luck perhaps the new condo buildings will detract from the hideousness of the “GTECH” building? Sort of like a good make-up artist subtly shading a large nose to make it look smaller? Maybe these new structures will allow this one to blend a little rather than being a complete tacky eyesore. Really whoever approved these plans were obviously aesthetically numb.

Monkey Has anyone here actually bothered to visit this building, walked inside it, looked at the plans, talked with anyone about the ideas behind it, looked into its use of energy and its sustainability. Architectural criticism is more than talking about a building’s general appearance. Just like one doesn’t some up a person by the clothes they wear, a building is so much more than the way it looks and those opinions are so subjective. Some people like modern architecture, some people like historic architecture. Personally I think that they can coexist quite gracefully. The Europeans have mastered this. Why do Rhode Islanders seem to struggle with it so much? Someone from Europe would laugh at the way the mall looks because it looks like a cartoon or a weird Disney version of a New England skyline. If you think about it at one time Victorian architecture was radical, modern and strange to some. There seems to be an international architectual revolution going on, particularily in green building and the new modernism as seen in magazines like Dwell.The past is the past. Let’s preserve what we have but let’s address the future.

Birdie I agree with Indy. “Great potential, horrible use of it.” Providence always seems to define itself as a city that has one foot in the past and one in the future. A result of this, modern looks boring and it’s historic is never truly celebrated. We now have a glass cube on the water. Goodie.

Melissa I personally think that something connecting the mall to the GTECH building, either above or below ground, would be nice cause cross the street there can be pretty risky

Chuck Such a shame this was built. The Providence Place Mall incorporated many elements of classic Providence architecture - brick, wrought iron, cupola, etc. Then the GTECH black cube (is this the Borg cube from Star Trek?) gets dropped next to it, blocking the view from waterplace and disconnecting these two public areas and crowding the open feeling.

chick coletta I just came back to RI from Florida. being away for 3 years... I see many things have changed... Upon driving to downtown, I see this building that looks like it belongs in the future century. It just doesn’t fit into the citys appearance. I think it is a disgrace to see this Gteck building going up here. Whoever gave an approval on this should have been hung by the ____. Everthing that has been built in Providence has alway been in keeping with the architectural era of the city. The city has always had a look of historic beauty... But now things have changed... Now I fully understand what a great job Buddy Cianci has done... it’s a shame he wasn’t here to keep up the same apperance for the city... I guess some people now in office are guilty of what they accused Buddy of...........................????Some people might not have liked him but he did what was best for the City ...Regardless of what he was accused of ,and not to meantion what he was found not guilty of... I guess the Judge or someone just didn’t like him... What a shame to see this city falling apart.

indy I think the location is fine; the mall was designed to look like a downtown building but with nothing countering it it still looks a lot like a mall. The Gtech location has the potential to make a great urban street with outdoor restaurants on the mall side and retail on the Gtech side. It could create a really nice extenstion of downtown leading to Waterplace park and the capital. It would also provide a nice sense of enclosure to waterplace park. (which the mall did a good job of when it was built but this will be even tighter) The designs that Ive seen for the Gtech building however are atrocious. A big ugly, characterless glass box next to the river? Providence already have one of those on the East Side obstructing the charm of College Hill (the Citizens tower)… We don’t need another one. Great protential… horrible use of it.

Jordan I disagree with Roland’s comments about the site and its relation to the river. The great appeal of this development to me is the potential to use the public spaces around it and the new activity that it will generate to integrate the mall with the city. Currently, Francis Street functions as an extension of the mall and is very “one sided” – the link to the river from the mall can be accentuated with well designed public spaces and active ground floor uses.

Roland I am rather distressed that GTECH is building in that location. The building will hide some of the key features of the waterway. People will now have to work around the building to see the great College Hill and the Rhode Island Court House.

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