REX to Design New Performing Arts Center at Brown University

REX to Design New Performing Arts Center at Brown University

REX, the award-winning firm based in New York City, has been selected by the Corporation oF Brown University as the architect for Brown's new performing arts center (PAC) to be located in the heart of the College Hill campus.

Administered and programmed by the Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) - a consortium of six departments and two programs enhancing arts offerings at Brown - to serve students, faculty, staff, the greater Providence community, and beyond, the highly flexible facility is targeted for completion in the late fall of 2020.

The new PAC will be a leading-edge venue for music, dance, theater, creative collaboration, and innovation featuring the latest advances in acoustics, staging, lighting, and multi-media technology.

The University's strategic plan, Building on Distinction, was launched in 2014, under the leadership of President Christina Paxson. In fall 2015, the University completed an operational plan to translate the plan's broad, aspirational goals into concrete actions to be taken over the next decade. A central component in the goal to firmly establish Brown as a national leader in the creation of art and arts education was the construction of a new performing arts center - a flexible space for performance across disciplines.

"We're excited to work with architects with the stature and experience to bring life to our vision for a state-of-the-art home for the performing arts," said Paxson. "This new center will build on Brown's rich arts heritage, serve as a venue for both traditional and groundbreaking new works, and strengthen our connection to the greater community."

The PAC will be an easily transformable space for performances large and small, from full Brown University Orchestra productions to intimate recitals. Anticipated features include a main performance hall, a smaller-scale performance and rehearsal hall, a dance studio suitable for performance and rehearsal, an acting studio, practice and instruction rooms, lobby, and café. In addition to presenting traditional, experimental, and multi-disciplinary work, the new PAC will be an incubator for the creation of boundary-pushing, thought-provoking, multi-media art celebrated at Brown.

BAI Faculty Director Butch Rovan said, "We are thrilled to begin working with Joshua Prince-Ramus and the team at REX. They have demonstrated an ability to ask the right questions that get to the essence of who we are, as an institution and as people. Their penetrating intellectual and creative approach to process is one of the many reasons they're a great fit for Brown and the performing arts center project."

With its proximity to the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts (designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and opened in 2011) and The Walk, a series of green spaces linking Brown's main campus and its Pembroke campus, the PAC will anchor a cluster of arts facilities on campus. The siting will establish a vital hub for dynamic interactions including arts symposia, festivals, cross-departmental projects, and collaborations with the Rhode Island School of Design and others.

Architect Selection Process

The Design Review Subcommittee of the Corporation's Committee on Facilities and Campus Planning (the Committee) managed the architect selection process.

Selection criteria included each firm's credentials: track record of designing successful performance venues; assessments of how well the venues perform; professional and client recommendations; organizational capacity; ability to work effectively as part of a collaborative team; experience with campus and urban buildings; and creative programmatic ideas to serve academic purposes and the greater Providence community.

Fifteen firms headquartered in the U.S. and abroad were asked to submit their qualifications in early 2017. Following a three-month review process that included numerous site visits to North American venues designed by the firms, five firms were advanced. After further conversations and meetings, the Committee recommended REX to the Corporation oF Brown University. The recommendation was approved by the Corporation during its Commencement week meetings on May 25 and 26, 2017.

As it has for another new building project on campus, Brown will use the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) collaborative method for evolving the design and construction of the PAC. IPD reduces waste and maximizes efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction. Importantly, IPD mirrors BAI's ethos that fosters collaboration across disciplines to stimulate creativity and innovation.

University Architect Collette Creppell said, "REX's exceptional work and insights on complex issues involved with designing a performing arts center in an urban-campus setting align with the University's project goals and distinctive educational landscape. REX embraced the Integrated Project Delivery process with enthusiasm and rigor. We are confident that the team will design a structure of strong architectural identity tied to site and program - a center that will inspire the Brown community, be a magnet for artists from around the globe, and a superb space enjoyed by and for generations to come."

Performing Arts Center Team and Program

To deliver a superior arts facility with advanced acoustics, innovative seating, flexible lighting configuration, professional sound recording, multimedia digital production capability, creative staging possibilities, and achieve a minimum silver LEED certification per all new construction at Brown, REX will work in close collaboration with the design and construction team including, among other partners: Shawmut Design and Construction, contractor; and Reed Hilderbrand, landscape architect.

Arup, a world leader in design for performance venues, was engaged in 2014, to help develop the brief with the University. The PAC is anticipated to comprise a variety of components including:

- Main Performance Hall,

- Performance & Rehearsal Hall,

- Dance Studio + storage and locker rooms,

- Acting Studio/Rehearsal Room + storage,

- Instruments Studios for Instruction,

- Student Practice Rooms,

- Rooms for Individual and Small Group Practice,

- Front of House: lobby, café, restrooms,

- Back of House: dressing rooms, green room, lockers, assembly, storage, control rooms, machinery pits, etc., and

- Offices for staff and visiting artists.

REX is an internationally acclaimed architecture firm in New York City led by Joshua Prince-Ramus. REX - whose name signifies a re-appraisal (RE) of architecture (X) - consistently challenges and advances building typologies, and promotes the agency of architecture. REX is renowned for the design of the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center (The Perelman) in New York City, the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas, the Vakko Fashion Center and Power Media Center in Istanbul, and the Seattle Central Library. Their work has been recognized with the profession's top accolades, including the most recent Marcus Prize, bestowed upon architects "on a trajectory to greatness," two American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Honor Awards, a U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology National Honor Award, an American Library Association National Building Award, and two American Council of Engineering Companies' NationAl Gold Awards. REX has been named "One of the World's Top 10 Innovative Companies in Architecture" by Fast Company. Visit for more.

The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University seeks to cultivate creative expression and foster an interdisciplinary environment where faculty and students learn from one another and from artists and scholars in a wide range of fields across the campus and around the world. A consortium of six arts departments and two programs that encompass the performing, literary, and visual arts, the BAI works collaboratively to enhance curricular and co-curricular offerings, directly engage students with prominent artists working in all genres and media, and supports a diverse program of concerts, performances, exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and symposia each year. The BAI takes full advantage of the University's Open Curriculum and builds on Brown's reputation as a destination for arts exploration, contributing to cultural enterprise through the integration of theory, practice, and scholarship with an emphasis on innovation and discovery that results from rigorous artmaking and experimentation. The BAI was officially launched in March 2017. Visit

The BAI comprises and integrates History of Art and Architecture; Literary Arts; Modern Culture and Media; Music; Theatre Arts and Performance Studies; Visual Art; the David Winton Bell Gallery; and Rites and Reason Theatre/Africana Studies.

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