Making Room for Radical Design

Woodard & Curran was selected to prepare the site/civil engineering designs and permitting for Brown University’s 94,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center (PAC). The project is being designed and constructed under an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) format contract over a 4.5-year schedule, with construction begun in fall 2019 and estimated commissioning in February 2023. Through this approach, the University, architect, engineers, contractors and subcontractors work together through all phases of the project, resulting in a highly collaborative planning, design and building process.

In 2013, Brown University adopted a new strategic plan to accommodate the evolution of its academics, including numerous campus enhancements. Identified in the plan was the need for new or renovated performing arts space, described by Brown as “… designed to inspire innovative new art-making, enable unprecedented artistic collaboration and serve as a hub for performance at Brown.”

The design and construction of the PAC has come with challenges related to site constraints that demanded a complex site enabling package, an extensive underground building program, and the need for a multi-use performance venue with a radical approach to spatial, acoustical, and technical flexibility. Woodard & Curran performed civil design and permitting for the project, which included rerouting public water mains, sewers, gas mains, and underground electric and communications trunk lines not only to make way and adequately service the new structure, but also to accommodate the relocation of Sharpe House, a historic Second Empire building with four stories comprising office and classroom space for faculty, staff, and graduate students in Brown’s history department.

Despite this enabling work, the PAC design remained challenged by site and zoning constraints, which dictated the building extents. Design compromises were made, including variations on internal layout and external features to fit within a footprint smaller than originally anticipated. Design changes were also required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The resulting building design covers almost the entire site and the extends 30 feet below grade within bedrock. To adequately prepare the site to accommodate the new building’s depth and related utility installations, the IPD team mechanically excavated the site. Woodard & Curran had a prominent role in specifying and procuring services for support of excavation systems and blasting.

Woodard & Curran worked collaboratively with the IPD team members to creatively design and phase the construction of site utilities and drainage systems within tight site constraints. The stormwater management system addresses the PAC and relocated Sharpe House and eliminates the area’s stormwater runoff from entering the City’s combined sewer system — instead channeling stormwater to a separate drainage system and installing a 60-inch pipe to detain stormwater during weather events.

Woodard & Curran coordinated and obtained approvals from National Grid (gas and electric), Verizon, Providence Water Supply, Narragansett Bay Commission (sewer), RIDEM (stormwater) and the City of Providence (sewer and street lighting). The project is targeting LEED Silver Certification.

Brown University

Providence, RI



Jan Greenwood

Areas of Focus

Community Development

Communities rely on an array of infrastructure. We partner with our clients to identify creative, multi-beneficial projects to improve resiliency and support growth.

Learn More

Scroll back to top of the page