Classroom Annex

The First Unitarian Church is located in Providence at the intersection of Benefit and Benevolent Streets, between Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Situated within the Providence Historic District, the project was subject to approvals by the Providence Historical Society. The Church complex includes the Sanctuary built in 1780, the newly renovated 1878 Parish House, and a new Classroom Annex.

The new Annex fills a zero lot line site between the Parish House and an adjacent residence. A new lobby for social gatherings was created between the Classroom Annex and the existing Parish House. Centerbrook designed the project in association with James Barnes Architects of Providence.


First Unitarian Church

Location Providence, RI
Size 11,981 Sq. Ft.
Program classrooms, parish house
Year Completed 2002
Photo Credit Warren Jagger, Centerbrook
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In keeping with the historic character of the Church's original buildings, the Classroom Annex is built of the same Rhode Island granite found on the Church and Parish House, but uses readily available techniques to give texture and shape to the stone. The painted wood trim and details paraphrase the adjacent buildings, including a simpler version of the classical/Gothic mullions of the original church. In keeping with the Unitarian view of the universe, five phases of the moon are illustrated by mullions in the round windows.

The new lobby between the Classroom Annex and the existing Parish House has triangular skylights that allow light into the Parish House auditorium and views from the auditorium into the lobby. The ceiling lights show the Big and Little Dippers pointing to the North Star.

“We have truly done what we set out to do - build a spectacular building that meets our needs, fits into the neighborhood, and represents the future.” Virginia Adams, Building Committee Director
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  • Design Award, AIA/Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture
  • Urban Design Citation, AIA Rhode Island
  • New Construction Award, Providence Preservation Society