Jonathan F. Bell & Ian Baldwin, DUAL
2018 Richard L. Blinder Award
SLICE: The Inhabited Facade

An occupied building strengthens the social and economic fabric of the city, but the resources needed to reactivate abandoned or underused buildings are substantial. Brawny and inflexible building types like armories, warehouses, factories and infrastructure, especially those outside a large downtown, can be lucky to stay alive with a nightclub or self-storage franchise. Multiply the costs of preservation-minded adaptive reuse over tens of thousands of square feet, and the prospects of a complete, sensitive and competent rehab become remote for all but a handful of fortunate buildings.

With SLICE, Bell and Baldwin ask: What if a large building awaiting preservation could be downsized to focus on its most important resource – its urban facade? By building out the area right behind the facade, a SLICE is created: a vertical stack of rehabilitated space just big enough for useful occupancy that brings the exterior alive. “SLICE’s skinny interiors provide affordable property in the city for occupants, and for owners, lower upfront costs, a revenue stream, and a visible step toward redevelopment of the entire property,” says Jonathan F. Bell and Ian Baldwin, 2018 Fitch Fellows. “The facade turns from a stylistic issue to a social and economic one, as a display window showing off capital investment and activity.”

Bell and Baldwin will build upon the success of their SLICE prototype, the Arnold Building in downtown Providence, RI, with an 80,000 sq.ft. former brewery dating from 1892 in Providence’s Eagle Square. This case study will result in a portfolio of research into current practices and technologies to apply the SLICE methodology to other buildings, anticipating a broad, flexible range of applications to encourage SLICE implementation beyond the northeastern United States, where different outcomes will surely exist.