Warwick, R. I. — Knight Campus, Rhode Island Junior College, now Community College of Rhode Island (1968-72 with additions 1999)
Perkins and Will Partnership — Howard Juster, design to construction; Robert Reilly, project director; Harkness and Geddes; Robinson Green Beretta; original architects.
Robinson Green Beretta — Christopher McMahan, lead design architect, 1999.
In 1968, the state began work on the Knight Campus of Rhode Island Junior College [now Community College of Rhode Island], having chosen to build, instead of the traditional campus with separate buildings, a megastructure which encompassed all of the institution’s functions within one building. Offices, classrooms, and workshops are gathered around a large, multi-story interior courtyard, and lecture halls and a library are included in a semi-detached cylindrical section separated from the main block by a road passing through the mass of the building. The structure thus accommodates all academic, social, and recreational functions under one roof. Its design, by Perkins and Will Partnership of White Plains, New York, in conjunction with the Providence firms of Harkness and Geddes and Robinson Green Beretta, is strongly influenced by the work of the famous modern architect Le Corbusier. The choice of what was at the time an innovative architectural form shows a progressive attitude on the part of state government, and as a result the city of Warwick obtained what is probably [perhaps] the most significant contemporary structure in Rhode Island. Dramatically situated on a hilltop, this striking building is admirably scaled to the highways it overlooks and from which its monumental appearance can be appreciated. The college megastructure, completed in 1972, has earned international recognition in the ensuing years, and is featured in Reyner Banham’s book Megastructures: Urban Futures of the Recent Past [as well as the Wikipedia article on Brutalist architecture]. It is a building of which the city and the state can be proud. __ Robert Owen Jones in Warwick, Rhode Island — Statewide Historic Preservation Report K-W-1 (1981), re-edited 2013.
As with most Recent Past structures, especially those in the Brutalist style, this building has been underappreciated and disrespected. In 1999 a postmodernist main entrance block was added to the principal (north) facade (hidden by the tree at the right in the lower photo) which is totally out of character with the original structure.
A 2011 exhibition and program at CCRI Knight, “We Talk About Architecture, Architecture Talks Back,” provided a 39th anniversary retrospective of the megastructure and the opinions and feelings, positive and negative, it evokes. Artists were invited to create and display art inspired by the building, including visionary plans for additions or alterations to the building designed either to enhance or diminish its Brutalist character. Hopefully the beginning of a new appreciation for the structure.
Top photo, Knight Campus about the time of its opening in 1972.
Middle photo, ground-level view by ROJ ca 1976/80.
Lower photo, 2012 view in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons; original author KB1KOI; image modified by Ubcule and ROJ.