Fields Point Master Plan – RISD Studio

Project Ambitions
The Fields Point Master Plan develops this ecology of mixed values through both a careful delineation of boundaries with specific moments of interchange.  Industry can exist near housing, near protected ecosystems, near institutions as long as its boundaries are respected, defined and the public is encouraged to understand its importance. There are four major intentions with the Master Plan:

Encourage Public Space
To encourage urban vibrancy and personal interchange, the Master Plan reinstates the importance of the public sidewalk, develops formal and informal recreation zones and offers a large-scale space for public gathering.  This is done through three primary moves: the insertion of a new boulevard sided by high density retail and market edges, lined by a new light rail line and connected to the existing neighborhoods; the development of park networks that allow public access to the Bay and, specifically, a Port Promenade, or elevated walkway, to vault the public into the space above the port and industrial zones; and a public market and event space that allows for more connection others through daily life.  Public space is not only exterior, but also the development of the Bridge Buildings that encourage public amenities, such as a library, community center for the neighborhood, and museum space.

Foster Urbanity
This master plan promotes the development only high and low density—high density to sponsor contemporary urban environments with architecture that is progressive in its sensibility and open space that allows for public interchange; low density to allow for the space and opportunity of industrial and productive businesses and public recreation.  Providence has a fantastic historical architectural tradition that has been more recently been enhanced in its Renaissance.  As its downtown has become more urbane, walkable and desirable, one wonders about its future growth?  Is it doomed to a contextual style that is eternally re-referenced?  We suggest a second center, not to rival Downcity, but instead a satellite urbanity—a contemporary, urban environment that projects innovation, design excellence, and perhaps even an artistic avant-garde. Along with the increased density around the new waterfront boulevard, parking is removed from surface lots and is instead organized as part of the infrastructure of the site, available, but away from the neighborhood and considered secondary to the pedestrian experience of the boulevard.  The cars on the boulevard are activity, with people, with light rail, with the natural balanced vibrancy of an urbane space.  The student environment of Johnson and Wales becomes part of this urban space, allowing for university expansion into denser zones, protecting their needs and simultaneously giving them opportunities to use the surrounding amenities, such as the market and event space.

Steward Global Responsibility
Some of the major elements of the existing site, involve the large-scale use of resources—either non-renewable energy, such as natural gas, oil, and coal, or the renewing of potable water through chemical treatment.  This site can not only be a place for literal transformation of energy uses and sources to renewable types, the development of more natural processes in water and soil remediation, but can become a symbol of this global change by using the processes and technology—windmills and wetlands—as urban and architectural elements that can be read from afar.  Three replacement strategies support this intention:  windmills replace oil tanks over time; wetlands and phyto-remediation replace the Narragansett Bay sewage treatment chemical water treatment facility; and the hazardous material that is excavated to create the new Fields Point waterway is reinstalled on the site to foster ecologically regenerative islands. In addition to the intention of responsible resource use and repair, the methods—windmills, living machine technology, and transit systems—can all be completed or manufactured by Rhode Island industries and manufacturing allowing Rhode Island to economically benefit by its own restoration.

Support Economic Development
Rhode Island is the Ocean State– its legacy of water industry dates to its founding and is unique in is future.  The Master Plan seeks to promote marine services industries by creating two marinas: a marina for private boats and their maintenance and a working marina that supports boat building and repair.  Additionally, the plan includes a new Short Sea Shipping terminal for ProvPort so that it can encourage this growing transit option, decreasing freeway transit and pollution.  The public market also ties local production to local consumption by giving a strong center to Rhode Island agriculture right near the Johnson and Wales legacy of cuisine and hospitality. By developing the Port Promenade, there is also the potential that, perhaps, by seeing and understanding industrial processes, visitors can more fully appreciate the need for such operations, encourage their development and support the underpinning on which this local economy is based. Providence must remain a business center connected to the world in order to viably sustain itself.

Four Major Proposed Elements
At the southern edge of Fields Point, a three-part park is proposed.  This space provides needed public access, outdoor programming and a balanced ecology so lacking in the Providence waterfront and upper Narragansett Bay.  Its three major zones align themselves with the three predominant urban zones to their north in the form of complimentary partners.  For the Johnson & Wales campus, athletic facilities are proposed; for the commercial center, a civic park; and for the industrial port, a restored littoral habitat.  This sequence of spaces is broken up and defined by ramps that jut out above the surface, providing multiple stages to take in the spectacular views of the bay, the port city and the park itself. At the athletic facility, the ramps are wide, with large level playing fields that are rigidly constructed to regulation sports standards.  Multiple soccer (football), lacrosse, baseball fields, tennis courts and basketball courts form a green roof above a large parking facility, clubhouse and locker room, which faces the main boulevard.  The fields are divided by squat ramps that form bleacher seating. Longer gradual ramps connect the fields in a grid that is ideal for jogging workouts. These become a critical amenity for the University and neighborhood and heroic extension of the Johnson & Wales campus.

The public park is a flexible and diverse space for the city.  The ramps here define more intimate spaces, breaking the huge vistas of the city down into smaller courts.  Along the northern edge, a single roadway connects the boulevard through the park and out to the easternmost ecological zone.  A series of ramps is inverted below the surface to create a shallow channel that allows water to flow through at high tide, but is a land bridge at low tide.  This creates specific times for a range of kayaking and walking activities and highlights the park’s dynamic relationship with the natural cycles of the bay.  To the east, ramps form a concert amphitheater, picnic tables, small café and water sport rental space, open festival space and test garden beds.  Here, the ramps begin to break off and move down into the bay.  The park becomes a civic living room for metropolitan Providence, reinforcing its connection to the commerce above it and the bay to its south.

The third major component is the ecological habitat, at the easternmost portion of the park.  This space continues to house the Save the Bay building and restored shorelines.  A new bus parking space is constructed as a grove, with rows of trees delimiting the parking spaces.  The elevated walkway arcs over the main channel inlet and terminates alongside the windmill promenade continuing out into the bay.  The ramps break off further into the bay, becoming pleasure boat islands, wildlife sanctuaries and buffers to the boat wakes that travel up the harbor.  These islands are constructed from fill excavated for the channel and are planted with a variety of phyto-remediation techniques to move from toxic to restorative landscapes.  The islands and gentle shorelines filter the noise, wave energy and effluents of the industry to their north, and become essential to the sustainability of this regional economic hub.

Together, the three zones of the park are a gateway to the dynamic and varied city, and become the focal point of the upper Narragansett Bay.  It becomes a definitive statement of the ability for intense urban densities, commerce and industry to co-exist with sensitive environmental planning and a respect for natural systems.

Fields Point is dry and desolate, void of life and activity. A farmers market is an interactive atmosphere with much movement and commotion, a public gathering space abundant with life. It can be an antidote to the existing conditions of Fields Point by creating and using the motion of the market to infuse Fields Point with energy through color, textures, smells and sounds; it is a sensorial experience. This experience and atmosphere are inherent to a market, created by the vendors and their stands.

The neighborhood around Fields Point (Washington Park) is a diverse neighborhood, consisting of different economic classes and ethnicities. The farmers market is a great way for the diverse population to enjoy the site, and a way to bring not only the neighborhood into the once exclusive site, but also the entire state.

This market design exposes the self-organized and intricate distribution system of goods. The market is the distribution destination where different scales of shipping converge with different scales of goods and stands. It is a place where the pedestrian can experience not only the excitement of the buying and selling, but also the delivery of goods. The design accentuates the industrial aspects of the market similarly to the way the master plan exposes the industry of Fields Point allowing the public to experience the working Fields Point. Delivery and distribution are the face of the market exposing and highlighting the market’s foundation. The different scales of delivery and distribution define the market; they are what control its arrangement. From the car to the tractor-trailer, the scales of shipping and delivery delineate the stands and thus vendors in the market: smaller loading docks and stands for the cars and larger space and storage for the tractor-trailers. The scale of delivery also determines the scale and type of goods or produce. By designating different sized loading docks, the stands and vendors have to organize themselves based solely on delivery further emphasizing the importance of distribution and the hidden working side of the market. Once the stands are arranged and organized, the vendors and the goods create the effervescence and colorful atmosphere.

Bridge Building
The Bridge buildings are intended to serve as both a metaphorical and literal bridge between the existing neighborhood of Washington Park and the new developments at Field’s Point.  They provide space and services for the neighborhood to use and enjoy. Some of the functions envisioned include: a public library, a museum, a community center with day care facilities and meeting space, and professional offices for healthcare providers and community leaders. It also provides space for the Port of Providence and the Narragansett Bay Commission to use, much needed parking and office space overlooking their functions below.  Each set of spaces is located closest to the user on each side of the building and then connected by a bridge with retail and restaurant spaces– a space over the waterway that both sides can use and enjoy. Above, on the roof deck level is an expansive park that connects from the neighborhood and becomes an extension of the recreational space at that elevation. It echoes the recreational space provided at the Field’s Point level. At the end of the bar building a ramp slopes down to connect to the Port Promenade and the retail space below. The building also addresses the movement below by providing space and function at the street level, engaging pedestrian use and access up and through. At the street visitors can access parking, the Port Promenade and retail space above. It then anchors itself into the hill to engage the neighborhood.

Port Promenade
The Port Promenade aims to increase the public participation of the industrial edge of the newly designed site. This elevated walkway is conceived as a device to transform the new port edge into a highly accessible public space that carries recreational and educational values.  The goal of the project is to create an ultimate industrial experience for the general public. Element and activities of drastically different scale and speed are juxtaposed in stimulating the physical and visual experiences of the visitors. The proposed wind turbines and the containers found on site are utilized as the main supporting structures of the design. Tied together by tension cables and activity-specific structures, three distinct public spaces are created along this elevated promenade.

Amphitheater/Exhibition Hall (Cultural) – Visitors will first encounter the amphitheater within the constructed wetland with retention ponds and berms. The containers hanging above are connected in creating an exhibition hall for local artists. Wind turbines here also function as the structure for the movie screen and the performance stage is set into one of the ponds. The oversized berm in this undulating landscape becomes the seating area that is also a connector to the promenade. While enjoying the performances or movie screenings, the audiences at the same time observe the sailboats in the near background.

Promet Boat Storage/Skate Park (Recreational) – Continue along, the promenade becomes the separating line between the Promet Boat Storage and a skate park. The skate ramp here spans from the pathway to the containers providing an extreme environment for skateboarders looking for challenges. This segment of the promenade will also provide visitors a chance to observe the boats and the repairing process from a different perspective. The stagnant boats and the speed of the skateboarders present a contrasting visual and physical experience for the visitors and park users.

SSS Port/Turbine Observatory (Educational) – As a reaction towards the current lack of access and understanding of the Providence Port at Fields Point due to security measures, the promenade leads the visitors to experience the actual port operation process. A pair of stairs brings the visitors onto the port structure right above the container storage area. Within the enclosed hallways, visitors will get a chance to walk along the movements of the gantries and observe the process of containers being stored and transported from the shipping boats to trucks. This eventually takes the visitors to a spiral staircase onto the turbine observatory. At an altitude of 90 feet, the turbine observatory will allow visitors to view the entire Fields Point and provide an intimate encounter with the wind turbine structure – 8 feet away from the rotating blades.