The Ruane Center for the Humanities is Providence College’s (PC’s) signature academic building, symbolizing PC’s commitment to the liberal arts, the humanities, and undergraduate education. It also embodies the essence of the core value of PC’s Strategic Plan which emphasizes the enhancement of academic excellence at the College.
Completed in September 2013, the building is located on the College’s main campus between the Phillips Memorial Library and the Albertus Magnus-Sowa-Hickey science complex. It is connected to Phillips Library by an enclosed walkway.
Named for PC’s former Board of Trustees Chairman Michael A. Ruane, ’71 and his wife, Elizabeth, the building is dedicated to disciplines in the humanities and serves as the home of the College’s Development of Western Civilization (DWC) and Liberal Arts Honors programs. It also houses the Departments of English and History and the School of Arts & Sciences. Together, these comprise most of the academic units in the humanities and thus the building brings together all the disciplines central to PC’s liberal arts education.
Despite its place as the centerpiece of a PC education since 1971, the College’s DWC program has never had a permanent home. With DWC retaining its prominence in the College’s new Core Curriculum which commenced in the fall 2012, there was a need for a new academic facility to support the program, a new emphasis on smaller classes and increased student participation, and the humanities in general. Every PC student takes DWC four days a week for their entire freshman and sophomore years, so every student who matriculates at PC will have classes in this facility.
Construction and Economic Impact
The Ruane Center for the Humanities is a facility of approximately 63,000 square feet and cost approximately $20 million. The architect for the building was S/L/A/M Collaborative (Boston, MA). The firm has a longstanding history of collaboration with PC, having conducted nine design or renovation projects on campus. These include the design of St. Dominic Chapel and the Smith Center for the Arts and the renovation of portions of Harkins Hall and the Phillips Memorial Library. The construction manager was Dimeo Construction (Providence, RI), which built Suites Hall, one of the College’s newest residence halls.
The Ruane Center project put approximately 200 Rhode Island building and tradesmen to work for a 15-month period from June 2012 to September 2013. The Ruane Center was one of the top (and possibly the largest) construction projects taking place in the city of Providence during this time.
Key components in the design of the Ruane Center were the need for flexibility in the use of space, particularly instructional space, as well as technology designed to engage students. The Ruane Center includes 12 seminar-style classrooms to accommodate 20 to 22 students and at least four larger classrooms to support the DWC Program and its new colloquia, as well as the Liberal Arts Honors Program.
Other academic-oriented features included in the building are a large, flexible presentation and functional space, group and individual study spaces, and faculty and student lounge/community space.
The building has two lives. Although primarily an academic building, after hours its great room and terrace are used for other College functions, lectures, and presentations. It supports the active lifestyle of the College after classes are finished for the day.
Due to the site’s pronounced north-to-south slope, the Ruane Center presents a two-story front to the campus but rises to three stories on the Eaton Street side. The Ruane Center’s architectural style is Collegiate Gothic, which is intended to highlight its affinity with Harkins and Aquinas Halls, the first — and most distinctive — buildings designed for Providence College. The new building’s most prominent feature, visible from the east, west, and north, is a sturdy square tower which marks its main entrance. The masonry façade includes both precast concrete and brick and is terminated by a thermoplastic PVC roof.
The first part of the building, near the tower, is largely devoted to a large double-height common room. This room, furnished with comfortable sofas and chairs, is expected to be a lively space for conversation and informal study throughout the day and into the evening. An outdoor terrace connects directly to this space. The second part, centrally located, is devoted to teaching spaces, including ten seminar rooms, two large lecture halls, and two classrooms of intermediate size. The third part, closest to Eaton Street, consists of offices for individual faculty members and department headquarters.