Public Humanities at City Hall: What Providence could have looked like
While you were holed up in the library writing papers about various long-dead white men on Wednesday, the students of AMCV1550: Methods in Public Humanities finished their last day of class in a slightly more enjoyable way. As their final project, the members of the class prepared an exhibit entitled “Capital Ideas: Planning Providence” which commemorates the city’s history by displaying various unimplemented design plans from the city’s archives. In addition, the students in the class asked members of the Providence community to draw sketches of their ideal visions of Providence.
The event was held at City Hall, and Mayor Taveras came out to give a short speech on the way that the exhibit celebrates the history of Providence (shown above). Some of the designs (both from the archives and those contributed by Providence community members) were relatively standard (and close to what exists today, in fact), but others were pretty unconventional. Being writers for BlogDailyHerald, we were naturally far more interested in the weird than the newsworthy. So, we present to you what we (and apparently at least one other person) wish Providence actually looked like:
From the city’s archives
The ’70s were a crazy time. In 1974, downtown Providence had become a bustling workplace, without many full time residents, which called for creating a more efficient public transportation system to ease the commuter stress of getting in and out of the city center. One proposal was for a “Personal Rapid Transit” system to be built consisting of “small pods, each seating 4 to 6 individuals” that would zip around elevated tracks to various hubs around the city center. While this may sound a lot like the transportation system used in the Will Smith movie, I, Robot (set in the year 2036) this was a serious plan to create a new form of public transportation as well as end the use of cars in the city entirely. So, here’s the real question: why was this awesome (although admittedly impractical) idea trashed? For shame, Providence.
Other absurd plans that were actually proposed by city planners include sticking both City Hall and the State House on some sort of island surrounded by a moat and demolishing a fair number of the historic houses Benefit St. and College Hill to build sleek, modern buildings under the guise of “renewal.”
From Providence community members (this is where it starts to get strange)
First up: Godzilla 2011. In this artist’s ideal Providence, it rains fire, and giant dinosaur-like creatures roam the streets, terrorizing the masses. The capitol building also has a huge red beam that acts as a portal into space (so now we know the real back-up plan in case a disaster hits the city). Naturally feisty, Providence residents seem to be protesting against Godzilla’s despotic reign by gathering on a bridge and holding up signs. Damn liberals. They’re probably Brown students.
This community member (RISD student?…if we correctly inferred from the artistic talent displayed here) envisions a time in the future when Providence is no longer located in boring old Rhode Island. Rather, it has been relocated to the land of Super Mario Sunshine, where pineapple trees are ubiquitous and everything is shaded in primary colors.
In a post-apocalyptic world, Providence has been completely wiped out and replaced by a gigantic “love store” in the shape of a giraffe-woman (somewhat like a liger, but not quite the same).