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University News

App highlights U.’s ‘architectural richness’

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, September 21, 2012

An iPhone application mapping the architectural history of the University is nearing completion and is slated to be released in late October.
The elaborately named app, FACADES – Facts About Campus Architecture, Design, Environment and Spaces – provides information about 125 structures related to the University, spanning a period from the 1770 creation of University Hall to the completion of the Nelson Fitness Center in April.
The project is the result of a collaboration between Professor of History of Art and Architecture Dietrich Neumann and 21 undergraduates. The app emerged out of a class Neumann taught last fall called HIAA 1910A: “Architecture of Downtown Providence from Late Nineteenth Century to the Present” in which students individually researched and wrote about a different building related to the University each week. Five students continued the venture in an independent study Neumann ran this past spring.
To complete the project, Neumann enlisted the help of photographer Hassan Bagheri and app developer Gokce Kinayoglu. He also sought funding from the Office of Alumni Relations.
The app offers a brief history of each building and monument on campus, along with photographs documenting their historical transformations. The user-friendly program allows people to search buildings by architect, function, year of completion or distance from their current location, and it provides walking directions to desired destinations on campus.
Neumann said he hopes the app will appeal to students, alums, visitors to campus and architecture aficionados alike.
Andrew Colpitts ’16 said such an app would have been invaluable during his first few weeks on campus and added that he anticipates new students will find it particularly useful.
The students involved in the project said it gave them a fresh perspective on Brown and Providence. Each week, the class was held in a different building, allowing them to explore the nooks and crannies of the campus. “It’s so interesting to learn about the little quirks of the buildings we go through every day, that we interact with but don’t really think about,” said Caleigh Forbes ’13. “It’s amazing to look at how they’ve grown and changed.”
After taking the class, Forbes said she became an unofficial tour guide to her friends, pointing out architectural details to them when they walk around campus.
Kalen McNamara ’13 said the app transmits the architectural diversity of Providence. “Providence is such an undersung city in this country,” she said. “Everybody thinks that Boston and Chicago are the only ones that have anything to offer. It’s so nice to have Brown lifting Providence on a pedestal.”
Neumann said he was inspired to create the app due to the “architectural richness of the University.” He said Brown is a great place to learn about architecture due to the range of styles it represents – “from the colonial to the contemporary.” Anyone looking for a quick lesson in architectural styles should visit Wriston Quadrangle, where “every single doorway is architecturally different, so you can really teach the different kinds of columns, orders and architraves just by going,” he said.
Architecture enthusiasts will be able to download the app for free from the iPhone App Store. Neumann is considering developing a second version for Android in the near future.
Neumann added that the app will be constantly updated and revised to reflect the ever-changing architectural landscape of the University.

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