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The Second Act
Adaptive Re-Use of an Existing Skyscraper
Industrial Trust Company Building is dubbed as the “Superman Building” due to its resemblance to the Daily Planet building from the Superman comics. The iconic Art Deco tower was built in 1928. Vacant since 2013, the building has no current rehabilitation plans. It was named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2019. Standing 428 feet tall, the building, almost a century later, still holds the same charm it did on day one.
The meaning and value of tall buildings have changed in modern society. In the present-day, the Superman building finds itself in a new urban realm. I started to look at possibilities to save this iconic structure and breathe new life into it. Using Adaptive Reuse as a strategy to not only preserve the historic significance but also as a sustainable approach to building design.
Starting at the very beginning, the 1920s was a time marked by industrialization. It was also a time when popular types of mass entertainment became a daily part of American society. Superman building marked the glory of Providence in its industrial heyday, the building served as a center for finance and commerce for 85 years. Standing in isolation it represented the success of a single organization. Now there’s a need for a paradigm shift. Today Providence is a self-proclaimed ‘Creative Capital’ and I believe that Superman can become the perfect repository of creative power and energy.
The second act reimagines this art deco masterpiece as a melting pot for performing artists. It is an assemblage of theatres and other performing spaces. From an underground jazz bar to a soundstage, auditoriums, black box theatres, and even open-air venues. It is an incubator style facility to prepare produce and present art. The design features a shared production facility including fabrication and wood workshops so that all theatres can focus on collaborative growth. Interconnection between performance spaces is designed for audience and visitor interaction. Exhibition galleries paired with food and drinks foster a sense of community. The artist residency program forms a close bond between academia and the professional world. The building is infused with entrepreneurial, creative, and social programs, all designed to create multiple streams of revenue.
The Re-Use is rooted in the social, cultural, and economical roots of the city and the state. It identifies performing arts as an inherent program for its people and provides new, unprecedented opportunities for the same. This is what a skyscraper means in the 21st century. It is not only a breakthrough in the field of design but also in the socio-cultural realm. Skyscrapers today are designed using state of the art technology striving to be the ‘green’-est. But isn’t the greenest building the one that’s already standing? Before we add new skyscrapers in the world, maybe we should re-evaluate the function and meaning of existing ones.
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