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The Lindemann Performing Arts Center at Brown University offers a unique juxtaposition of art exhibition with design and construction. The site offers research, design and performance spaces that foster creativity while the structure has been designed to have movable floors, walls, balconies and gantries to accommodate whatever inspirations the artists using the space can imagine. The building itself serves as raw materials for conceptualization, making the abstract tangible for audiences.

“At Brown, we see the arts as a catalyst for creativity, discovery and innovation. This new Performing Arts Center will attract the best faculty, visiting artists and students to Brown and provide them with the necessary diversity of spaces to experiment, work and perform,” Christina H. Paxson said in a 2017 news release announcing the project.

Our team at Jensen Hughes worked hand-in-hand with the design team to develop specialty fire and life safety systems for this malleable space. Our work included fiber-optic heat detection, auditory notifications, flexible piping, extensive modeling and a careful plan for the sequence of system operations.

The special approach to the center’s design by REX Architects transcends typical acoustic and spatial barriers through the design of the flexible main performance hall into a variety of theaters, music, performance and event spaces as well an immersive experimental media cube.

Within these configurations, there are rehearsal areas below grade, moveable balconies (gantries) on three sides, and ceiling panels that can be lowered and tilted to control acoustics and aesthetics. The floors feature sections that can be lowered to allow for seating and other items to be moved from the main floor level into and out of storage which all require special consideration for fire and life safety. The building is designed to provide the most flexibility to the University in how they operate it both for educational purposes and for performance events.

Jensen Hughes collaborated on the development and implementation of these unique solutions:

  • Fiber-optic heat detection above the stage to provide early fire detection with limited nuisance alarm potential.
  • Voice-evacuation fire alarm notification featuring a reduced number of specialized high-fidelity speakers throughout the main hall for increased intelligibility with limited architectural impact.
  • Careful development of the sequence of operation to interface to audio/visual components, ceiling panel rotation motors, smoke control systems and more.
  • Working with the Fire Protection Contractor, we developed a scheme to utilize flexible piping to connect the fixed fire protection infrastructure to the fixed fire sprinkler piping on the Gantries. The solution utilized industrial-grade materials and support systems to allow the movement that was needed.
  • Analysis of the fire resistance rating for the large structural steel members that support the roof and the suspended gantries.
  • Computational fire modeling to assist the project team in the design of the three (3) different smoke control systems present in the building: Underground Smoke Control / Pressurization, Main Hall Exhaust, and Smokeproof Stair Enclosures / Stair Pressurization.
  • Thermal comfort study for the design of the heating and cooling systems per ASHRAE standards to evaluate the comfort of the building occupants.

Project Details

Project Owner

Brown University


REX Architects

Project Location

Providence, RI, United States

Project Size

101,000 gsf




The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture & Design, The American Architecture Award, 2021

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