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Community College of Rhode Island Knight Campus (Rhode Island Junior College)

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Rhode Island Junior College
1968–1972, Perkins & Will Partnership with Harkness & Geddes and Robinson Green Beretta, associated architects. 400 East Ave. (Route 113)

CCRI Knight Campus is the state's preeminent megastructure—and an important exemplar in the American development of this building type. The concept attained the height of its popularity during the 1950s and 1960s, when supersized buildings (formerly associated mostly with the largest industrial plants) began to proliferate for such uses as shopping centers and suburban corporate headquarters. Properly speaking, however, megastructures require more than super size and single purpose. They are giant buildings designed to contain the diverse functions of a community. Their immediate progenitor was, above all, Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation in Marseilles (1946–1952). This megastructural type seemed to many especially advantageous for colleges and universities, a number of which, like this, were then being established. For this community college, where commuting eliminated the important residential aspect of the full-blown megastructure, a reduced version seemed especially appropriate. A huge parking lot would counterbalance a huge building in the overall site plan, with the remainder of the landscape of its hilltop location considered as a panorama—more for overlooking than for living in and walking through. Like Le Corbusier's Unité, it is a long, narrow, slab-like or liner-like shape in reinforced concrete—here 475 feet long, 225 feet wide, and five stories high. Whereas the windowed and balconied walls of the Unité are outwardly oriented, the community college walls in its interior spaces. Here a sculptural accent is the two-story expansive cylindrical element that both makes a sort of pilot house at the prow of this “liner” and marks the library's reading room; then, more dramatically, the wall peels away to permit a wide ramp on stilts (all Corbusian motifs) to rise into the very heart of the megastructure.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Community College of Rhode Island Knight Campus (Rhode Island Junior College)", [Warwick, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 323-324.

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