Higher Aims, Highest Collaboration

Arthur F. & Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies, Providence College
Providence, Rhode Island

The new Arthur F. and Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies is a cornerstone of Providence College. The project embodies a new beginning at the 100-year-old institution while also acting as a connector, uniting the east and west campuses and preserving the historic Dore Hall. 

The Ryan Center’s design embraces the metaphor of crossroads and intersections: its layered concept defines levels of environments that support the rich and complex networks of relationships fostering community and leadership development. The building features a two-story active classroom addition with an interconnected double-height multipurpose atrium. The daylit atrium is an inviting open gathering space that provides interior and exterior orientation, serves as a vibrant center of student activities and academic involvement, is multifunctional for large events, and is the only such space on campus.

This commission was the result of winning a design competition among seven firms. Conceptualized and designed in collaboration with the School of Business faculty, The Ryan Center features the largest percentage of active learning classrooms of any business school in New England. Teaching spaces are equipped with the latest in technology, including Bloomberg terminal func­tionality in the Financial Information Resource Lab. Deliberate placemaking facilitates discussion and encourages collaboration in settings where professors can engage meaningfully with students. Since its completion in 2017, The Ryan Center has become one of the most popular student spaces on campus and showcases a modern update to the classic brick and stone building that so many students had called home for years.

Arthur Ryan Center for Business Studies lit up at night

Visually compelling – especially after dark when it glows – the curving geometry of The Ryan Center’s west façade pays homage to the embracing gothic form of Harkins Hall, Providence College’s original and most iconic 1919 campus building. Front and center, a contemporary gothic arch frames the college’s logo, The Torch, with color-changing flame.

A Landscape of Learning

As an outward extension of the atrium, an inviting raised and planted terrace provides an outdoor cafe where seating overlooks the campus Arts Walk immediately to the south and links the Business School community with the residential hall and theater quadrangles beyond. The design concepts expanded on the idea of the Atrium, pushing beyond the notion of a static "declarative" space of formal arrival and welcoming toward a dynamic interrogative landscape of learning and possibilities.

The serendipitous energy of the campus courtyards is extended into the building itself. This new landscape — blending exterior terraces, interior stair/amphitheaters, ramps, and eddies of meeting places — unites the two flanking masonry volumes of program accommodations: the renovated Dore Hall for the small-grain/cellular spaces, and the new addition devoted to larger formal learning spaces.

Campus site plan for Campus plan showing Providence College's new School of Business

The project was never conceived as a “building addition,” but rather a new entity formed of complementary elements that will add its resources to the entire campus.

  • Early Design sketches for Providence College School of Business
  • Design drawing for the Providence College  Arthur F. and Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies
  • Schematic design drawings by SMMA for Providence College Business School

Open, Daylit, Inspirational

Key elements include a welcoming stair that is also a small seating area and feature two bridges connecting parallel volumes. These bridges efficiently accommodate faculty offices (in a re-purposed former residential hall at the east) and two floors of learning spaces (new long-span construction in a curved bar at the west).

Circulation along the classroom wing is open to the Atrium. Atop the transparent elliptical data lab is an open laptop lounge — “The Mesa” — while the ground floor provides café and lounge seating overlooking the south campus green. This flexible area can be configured to accommodate 335 seats for special events.

More than a privatized daylight-gathering circulation area, the Atrium creates a complementary interior landscape of fixed destinations and dynamic meeting spaces.


Patterns for Light

The architecture combines a scholastic rigor of expression — as in the articulation between the parallel masonry volumes and intervening transparent envelopes — with unexpected provocations, notably the inflections of the curved geometry of the classroom wing and the Atrium’s episodic halo skylights bringing an ever-changing pattern of daylight into the building’s heart.

Atrium staircase inside Providence College School of Business


Preserving History

This new heart of campus is directly associated with and inspired by the former western main entrance, Harkins Hall – the college’s first building that served as the archetype for a century of growth in both footprint and influence and has remained an icon on the campus for over a century. It also evokes a history deeply rooted in the City of Providence: it repurposes Dore Hall — one of nine buildings on Providence College’s east campus that originated as part of the original Providence City Hospital in the early 1900s. To establish its significance, The Ryan Center echoes Harkins Hall’s architectural integrity through its geometry and design.

Historic Providence College map showing Providence city hospital and Dore Hall.

It is also a feat of preservation: it re-uses existing materials while simultaneously bringing Dore Hall up to modern standards. The legacy building’s masonry was cleaned and repointed alongside cleaning, patching, or replacing the limestone water table as needed. Its cornice stones were cleaned or replaced with precast concrete to match the building’s profile. Windows were replaced including steel lintels when required. The exterior wall was insulated with mineral wool, and a new roof and exterior fire stairs were installed. Finally, a supplemental floor structure, new MEP/FP systems, and a new elevator were seamlessly introduced to the building.

New Providence College campus map