Students Re-envision a Historic Gem

Students Re-envision a Historic Gem | News | About | RISD.

Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture Markus Berger and his students from RISD’s Masters program in Interior Architecture (Adaptive Reuse) want to broaden our thinking about historic preservation. In a spring studio called past. present. future, they’re exploring the relationship between preservation and design, giving them the opportunity to demonstrate the principles  of adaptive reuse and building interventions through a complex design project.

The class is reimagining Newport’s historic Jane Pickens Theater and Events Center, which was designed by well-known Rhode Island architect Russell Warren and originally built as the Zion Episcopal Church in 1834. Located in Washington Square at the heart of the city, the building was one of Newport’s first Greek revival structures. However, its neoclassical façade – with pediment and columns – was lost when it was transformed into a theater in 1919. In 2004 the Staab family bought the property and has continued to operate it as an art-house theater, attracting loyal audiences from throughout New England.

The students are considering the building as their own ‘canvas,’ working to understand its history and context in the city without curtailing their imagination and exploring the full possibilities of creative intervention. The project is made possible by a grant from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, which supports “the structural integrity and appropriate adaptive reuse of key historic properties” on Aquidneck Island and in Newport County for the enjoyment of future generations.

Berger is asking students to intervene in ways that will “allow the building to evolve toward the future.” Working with the theater’s owners and the Jane Pickens Friends group, students are researching the structure, brainstorming ways to expand its commercial uses and creating innovative designs to accommodate these new uses. “Our job is to open everyone’s eyes to what the building could be” while at the same time paying homage to its unique history, says Joe Epstein MA 12, one of the students participating in the studio.

Students are considering various ways of transforming the theater into an entertainment hub that would bring in new audiences and help revitalize the area. Monica Alicea Matos MA 12 proposes to create spaces for a children’s theater workshop during the day and a nightclub that attracts young people in the evening, while Aarti Kathuria MA 12 envisions adding high-end residential units on top of the two-story building. Beatriz Cardona Rivera MA 12 is proposing to restore the neoclassical façade while transforming the interior of the building with the inclusion of extra space above for future programs. “In the past, preservationists would have simply restored the façade” and left it at that, Cardona says. “My design would keep the language of the structure but create a completely new experience once you enter it.”

Implementing the principles of adaptive reuse requires “a different approach to conservation than the traditional understanding of ‘historical preservation’,” Berger points out. “In this studio we ask our students to “explore the relationship between preservation and design. With a full understanding of an existing building’s original purpose we propose new uses and approaches that consider its historic context while focusing on its future. Adaptive reuse brings in new design elements that establish an enhanced relationship between old and new.”

Kathy Staab, owner of the Jane Pickens Theater, recently visited the adaptive reuse class at RISD. “It was exciting to see the variety of creative ideas for the building that students had developed,” she notes. “At the JPT we encourage out-of-the-box thinking as a part of our mission and this partnership with RISD has been an interesting way of expanding the possibilities of what might be.”

On May 25 students will present their final designs to the theater owners, members of the community, developers, preservationists and the press at a gathering at the Jane Pickens Theater and Events Center.  The proposals will be on display through May 27 at Newport’s Colony House. Berger expects that the presentation will “engage and continue the conversation on preservation and its potential for Newport and its future. We hope to show the community that preservation and design can come together.”




Back From Milan!

Our Students participating in the Milan Studio last semester, led by Professor Eduardo Duarte, finally went to Milan for the Salone Del Mobile 2012. The furniture series designed by the RISD IntAR Students is called Prototyping the Domestic Environment. Room divider, 3D wallpaper, or modular furniture are part of the exhibition at the Milan fair.

Here is a link toward the Design/Milk blog who got the pictures.

The Students involved in the Studio:
Sheilah Carroll
Sandhya Jethnani
Erin Truax
Joe Epstein
Radhi Desai
Aarti Kathuria
Ayisha Verma
Beatriz Cardona
Monica Alicea Matos
Srikirti Sreedha
Varsha Menon

other link:

Salone Internazionale del Mobile

Int|AR Journal volume 3 is out!

“Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth.” Ezra Pound, Make it New 1934

A celebration on the launch of the Int|AR V03
and a panel discussion on general issues of the preservation of modern architecture and the V03 article on Richard Neutra’s US Embassy in Karachi.
Int|AR Volume 03 Journal Launch
April 5, 5pm
CIT, Room 103

3rd Award Open Call

The talented Interior Architecture student Ariane Van Dievoet is entering a competition for furniture design.

Originally from Belgium, Ariane studied in Cambridge and London (UK) and is now a grad student in the MDes program at RISD. The work presented is composed of different furniture projects. One of them, from this past semester at RISD is called Wonderwal: “a partitioning storage unit designed for and installed at the Woonsocket homeless shelter in Rhode Island.” Other work include Benchestool, a modular seating system. When combined, the individual seating units form a bench. “Designed for easy and elegant storage, this versatile seating solution is ideal for small spaces.”

Check out more work, such as the ‘Stepstool’ and Saku chair, at this address, and vote for Ariane!


If you are around tomorrow night, Thursday March 1st at the CIT, join us for the portfolio night! 6:30pm, 6th Floor.

“This will be a great opportunity to learn from the wisdom of your peers. We want to hear what websites people like to use for theirwork, where people print their physical portfolios and your techniques for applying for internships! You can also ask for feedback from your peers on your portfolio.”


And remember, visit the PORTFOLIO section of this blog to view other online portfolios.

8 Containers / 1 House

Hello Dear Fellow Followers,

Here at RISD we are starting our Spring semester. When I’m not too busy (yet), I like to wander around the web in search for blogs and interesting things to get inspired from. I stumbled upon this project, a house that reused not 1, not 2, but 8 shipping containers. it is quite interesting to think how large the house is, and only relying on the reuse of the inexpensive containers. Of course much work was needed to make the cold metal structure a home. The cuts trough the floor of some of them give double height volumes in the living room.

Also, feel free to explore this great website: Apartment Therapy, a great resource for cool projects for your home, and inspirations.

Paris-Belleville School of Architecture [adaptive reuse]

Fellow IntAR followers,

Happy fresh start for 2012.

Check out this video promoting the School of Architecture Paris-Belleville. The video relates the way the school is organized but also let you have a glance at the very interesting adaptive reuse project in the heart of Paris. The school, formerly located in a beautiful old Meccano factory, needed room as the amount of students had increased over the past decade. With the rehabilitation of three very different buildings from various eras, all empty and available a few blocks away from the old location, the architect Jean-Paul Philippon managed to connect them to make a unique school of architecture in the French Capital. The creation of a new building in its center built a core for the school and host the library. The main street facade on the boulevard, the former Diderot Technical High School, benefited from a very humble renovation, and the history of the building is still present in its architectural language. The rest of the school opens onto a courtyard, with modern facades.

Ecole Nationale d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville

Watch the video for a tour!



Two RISD students from the IntAR Department have entered the IIDA Student Sustainable Design Competition. Cheryle Cranbourne, and Caitlin Santone participated in the Re-Box Studio last year. Their work has been exhibited at the RISD Sol Koffler Gallery.

Now it is online, waiting for your vote.

Their project revolves around the re-use of shipping containers turned into a structure to grow food, and re-use waste.  “Urban-Nurture provides an integrated, off-the-grid, closed-loop cycle that addresses the need for local, fresh and affordable produce. In keeping with the idea of reusing waste, Urban-Nurture seeks to mediate the growing global problem of a surplus of cor-ten steel shipping containers […]”

You can find more details of the project and vote for it at this address: