Brown University Joukowsky Institute

November 23, 2009 / no comments

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Rhode Island Hall, the fourth-oldest building on the main green at Brown University, was built in 1840 and is now the new home for the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World. Its massive granite block construction features a basement level, first floor, and double-height second floor with substantial skylights. A large connecting stair links each floor, with display cases, lighted with concealed linear LED fixtures, presenting interesting artifacts.


The basement contains several offices and a classroom, all with large windows so that daylight-harvesting linear fluorescent pendants were used. LED task lights at each desk can boost light levels per each person’s preferences.

The first floor is where full-time faculty and administration offices are located. Fully automatic daylight harvesting fixtures respond to sunlight that streams in through the nearly eight-foot-tall windows. The main lobby has more artifact exhibit space incorporated into the stair as well as two separate display rooms on either side of the entry vestibule. Low-wattage ceramic metal halide recessed adjustables provide crisp illumination without major heat or energy concerns.


The second floor is dominated by the double-height library space/reading room and graduate student studios. Centered in the middle of the library is a freestanding object containing six faculty offices topped with a study mezzanine. It’s accessed by a decorative stair accented with LED button fixtures just above the risers.


Above the mezzanine is a large barrel-vaulted ceiling that cleverly baffles a series of skylights that would have otherwise made the space too hot and bright.


Automatically dimming linear fluorescent cove uplights tucked into large sculptural openings in the ceiling supplement natural light on overcast days and replicate it at night, creating a spacious and ethereal quality of light.


The perimeter walls are almost completely covered with twelve-foot-tall bookcases, illuminated by elegant linear fluorescent wallwashers that cantilever from the upper fascia. In keeping with the theme, these fixtures also dim automatically based on ambient daylight.


An interior core wall was stripped back to expose the original stone construction and provided an opportunity to fit in a linear fluorescent strip, grazing the coarse material for a striking effect.


The adjacent reading room employs a dramatic sculptural wood slat wall that undulates across it’s length to creatively baffle the massive skylight above.

At the other end of this floor is the equally tall grad studio with its own skylight. A similar wood slat element snakes and twists its way up from the floor and on into the deep skylight opening to provide an innovative and interesting means of controlling daylight.


The building shows an interesting contrast between inside and outside; it clearly reflects the actual renovation process of completely stripping the interior down to the stone blocks and constructing something new inside. The architect’s keen understanding of materials and detailing provides wonderful opportunities to integrate lighting into the building language, so that light sources and fixture hardware are largely hidden.

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects

Photo credits: John Abromowski (1) Justin T. Brown / Lam Partners Inc (2-9)