RISD’s Interior Architecture department holds an annual department-wide charrette in which both graduate and undergraduate students are divided into a dozen teams to tackle a design challenge in a very short period of time. This year’s charrette was in partnership with NeighborWorks-Blackstone Valley and the challenge was to design an outdoor community theater for the historic riverside mill district in Woonsocket, RI. The site, consisting of several disparate historic textiles mills, and a defunct loading dock connecting the buildings, needed to be transformed into a space that could accommodate a variety of performance artists and entertainers.
A collaborative project with “Team C” members: Kelly He, Hyun Kyu Lee, Hui Bao, Siobhan Heffernan, Dessery Dai, Yu Zhou and Xiaohan Lu, we were awarded first place in the design competition. The project name, Downstage, is a term in theater that relates to being at or toward the front of the stage and is meant to revitalize the Blackstone riverfront so that it takes “center stage” for all things art & community. Inspired by the flow of water through the millrace, our team used organic materials and forms to create a secondary landscape for downtown Woonsocket. This new space, while accommodating the desired performance programs, will also serve as a multifaceted communal gathering space for actives and events of all seasons.