Like many brutalist structures, the Fogarty Building in downtown Providence didn’t have many fans. It wasn’t a particularly fine example of brutalism, but it was the most significant example of brutalism downtown, and it had strong bones. And it certainly had far more integrity than what was planned to replace it. It was with these thoughts of loss that I conceived of a funeral for the building as the wrecking ball was upon it. I thought, if only we could humanize the building, perhaps we could help people see it from a new perspective. Planned in partnership with Marisa Brown of Brown University Public Humanities Center, Doors Open RI and a small group of individuals who met during Hacking Heritage, the funeral was organized over the course of just one week.
On Friday March 17, we gathered around the open casket of the recently passed Fogarty Building in downtown Providence to say goodbye. Only 49 years old, it was built as the home for RI’s Department of Health and Human Services. It is now replaced by a cheap looking hotel.
The building had some friends and many foes. We heard from both in eulogies delivered by several people who knew the building best, including the daughter of the architect. After the funeral we processed around the building with our kazoos and a portable speaker playing “Oh Danny Boy” to a nearby watering hole to reflect on the life of our friend and changes in our city. The eulogy, co-authored by myself and Marisa Brown was published in the Providence Journal.
Read the Fogarty Building Obituary Here.
Our collaborator Janaya Kizzie worked with us to build a toolkit on planning funerals for buildings at the request of the National Trust for Historic Places to be shared nationally.