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Friedman Hall is one of Brown University’s most heavily used undergraduate academic buildings, a late 19th century Romanesque structure that houses classrooms and meeting space. Goals for its renovation focused on larger capacity classrooms, common areas that supported student social activity, and making the building fully accessible. All work had to take place without disrupting the information technology hub that occupied the building’s basement level.  

In order to accommodate these competing needs, project design required inserting a non-rigid, lighter weight steel structure inside the existing masonry-and-wood-truss construction, making room for a fundamentally open interior design that leaves the lower level undisturbed and satisfies seismic requirements.  

AW’s approach anchors the building more strongly in its landscape, actively engaging with its location at the center of College Green, emphasizing campus connections and activating use of exterior “rooms” on the building’s two most public sides.

The design allocates resources selectively, in order to maximize their impact. By uncovering a set of high windows concealed by previous renovations, natural light now floods the new spaces, energizing the interior. A perforated bronze screen at the building’s new North entry establishes a contemporary counterpart to the original entrance. The perforations reflect its elaborate stone carvings, and are visible differently by day, as sun filters into the building, and by night, as the piece becomes an illuminated beacon to campus.

Friedman Hall has become a celebrated front door to Brown’s campus and remains the highest occupancy classroom building on campus. It incorporates modern teaching technology and accommodates the University’s need for flexible academic and gathering spaces, transforming one of the least accessible buildings on campus to be fully accessible and welcoming to
all students.