By David Brussat
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Surely we can improve upon the sad relic pictured above!
In fact, Newport does not apparently desire to improve upon it. I initially wrote this blog post in my excitement before going to the link to the patch story about the competition. Perusal reveals that officials are seeking merely an interior renovation – worse, they are calling for submissions in a “modern aesthetic.”
Newport should not be throwing good money after bad. If they are not going to rebuild the whole thing, they should leave it be until money for a rebuild is available. Let them go ask the Newport Restoration Foundation, which plans to raise $3.5 million to renovate Queen Anne Square, which does not need it. Newport should ask the foundation to redirect its donor appeal to do work that really needs to be done.
But the following text, the original (except for the last graf) can stand as a warning against overexcitement causing the facts to be overlooked:
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Christine Franck, of the national ICAA, posted to the TradArch list a notice in the Newport Patch that the city is launching a design competition for a new visitors center to replace the abomination on America’s Cup Avenue. Ms. Franck urges members of the list to enter, and certainly members of the New England chapter of the ICAA will find the competition of particular interest. Here are the details:
The Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau is proud to announce a design competition, open to all architectural firms and interior designers as well as design students, to create a new, user-friendly Gateway Visitors Center interior environment that embraces the experience of the 21st century traveler.
The Newport Gateway Visitors Center, located on America’s Cup Avenue, opened its doors in 1988 and has assisted more than 10 million travelers in its 23 years of operation. Since opening day, the Visitors Center has provided information and guidance to travelers looking to experience the attractions, tours, lodging options, shopping, restaurants and recreational opportunities in Newport and its eight surrounding communities.
In that time, little has changed with the original physical layout, interior design and operational organization of the Visitors Center. When the doors opened, printed brochures, pamphlets and maps were distributed to travelers to promote area attractions, restaurants and businesses. Since then, technological advances have allowed travelers to access information over the internet, through social media sites and in a multi-platform digital capacity. The design competition seeks to incorporate the latest technology available with a more efficient and user-friendly floor plan, as well as a modern aesthetic, to better serve the traveling public.
Design proposals will be submitted in mid-August with the winners announced in September. Once these new designs have been received, the fundraising for these improvements will get underway. Implementation of the designs may occur in phases as funding becomes available.
The Board of the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau has retained Robert Douglass, president of Viaduct Advisors, LLC, to coordinate the design competition. Mr. Douglass has previously coordinated design competitions for Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, Rhode Island as well as North Providence High School.
Interested firms can contact Mr. Douglass at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information regarding the competition.
Back in the 1990s, Newport hired William D. Warner Architects & Planners, of Exeter, R.I., to design a master plan for a renewed America’s Cup Avenue. What he submitted would have been a pleasure to behold, much in the manner of the traditional waterfront he created for Providence. Alas, it was never built – not in the go-go ’90s or in the bubblicious ’00s either.
There is, alas, no assurance that the winner of a competition to replace Newport’s obscene modernist visitors center will not also be modernist – though even then it could hardly be more abominable than what exists today. But the more traditional proposals are received by the jury of the competition, the more likely that Newport’s normally and historically high standard of beauty will be brought to bear.
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So that’s what I had written. I would add that if the competition receives traditional submissions, be they interior or exterior, maybe it will help push them back to the original idea of rebuilding the visitors center entirely.