PROVIDENCE, R.I. — On April 5, Brown University in Providence announced plans to transform the historic, 1890s-era Wilson Hall into a 21st century academic space. The hall will undergo a full interior renovation thanks to a $24 million gift from the Richard A. and Susan P. Friedman Family Foundation, according to a statement by the university. The project — designed by Anmahian Winton Architects of Cambridge, Mass. — is set to begin in June, and renovations should be completed by the beginning of the fall 2018 semester.
Despite its small classrooms and narrow hallways, Wilson Hall is described in a statement by the university as one of its most “heavily trafficked undergraduate academic buildings.” The hall, however, has not received an upgrade since a modest renovation in the 1960s.
“If you visit Wilson Hall during the exchange of classes, so many people are pouring in and out that it can be difficult to even get into the building,” said Dean of the College Maud Mandel in a statement. “Couple that heavy use over more than a century with its location on the Main Green, and it’s easy to understand why Wilson has a symbolic significance to the undergraduate learning experience at Brown.”
Mandel added that the interior renovation will do much more than simply refresh old classrooms; it will allow the building to accommodate different courses and types of instruction. Work will extend across approximately 20,000 square feet and give the facility a new three-floor configuration. It will establish seven new classrooms featuring both fixed and flexible seating and modern teaching technology. Among these will be a more intimate 500-square-foot, 24-student seminar room alongside larger classrooms that will comfortably serve up to 100 students.
The project will also establish a new 900-square-foot student common area on the first level to facilitate more casual student interaction. Other improvements to the first level will include two new ADA-accessible entryways on the building’s north and west sides. A new elevator will improve accessibility throughout the building.
“The entryways we envision will invite spaces where students can gather before or after class,” University Architect Collette Creppell said in a statement. “Much of the activity that happens inside this old stone building will spill outside into landscaped areas, which will encourage social interactions and create a wonderful new set of connections to the larger Brown campus.”
While the project will overhaul the existing interior, the building’s original façade will be preserved. Upon the project’s completion, the university plans to rededicate the building as Friedman Hall in honor of its benefactors.