Old Defines New

‘Listening to the Building’

After 30 years on the east side, United Way of Rhode Island moved its office to the historic Calender Mills building in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. Built in 1845, Calender Mills was chosen strategically by United Way as part of a revitalization effort for the once thriving mill neighborhood.

The 23,000-square-foot building required creativity to provide a dynamic office facility. “We had to listen to the building and do what the building told us,” says Henry Cugno, vice president of Vision 3 Architects. The layout utilizes every available square foot of space and incorporates existing structural, wall and column features into the plan.  A series of open spaces and private offices defines the circulation paths through the office. Conference spaces, which are available for community use, are located between the reception and office areas.

Building mechanical systems are partially exposed and are a signature design feature of the office. “We really challenged our MEP/FP engineer to work within our design,” Cugno notes. “Everything, including the ductwork, sprinklers, lighting and ceiling panels, is exposed and integrated into the design.”


  • Building Owner and General Contractor: Struever Brothers Eccles & Rousse, Providence. R.I., www.sber.com
  • Architect/Interior Design: Vision 3 Architects, Providence, www.vision3architects.com
  • Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire-protection Engineer: Creative Environment Corp., East Providence, R.I., www.cec-engineering.com
  • Manufacturers: Armstrong, Lancaster, Pa., www.armstrong.com; J & J/Invision, Dalton, Ga., www.jj-invision; Dal-Tile, Dallas, www.daltile.com; Nydree Flooring, Forest, Va., www.nydreeflooring; Johnsonite, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, www.johnsonite.com; Pionite, Auburn, Maine, www.pionite.com; Stoller Metals, Kent, Wash., www.stollermetals.com

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