Brown University Churchill House and Rites and Reason Theatre

Seat of the Department of Africana Studies at Brown University for nearly 50 years, Churchill House and the Rites and Reason Theatre have a rich history, making the spaces integral to the university as a hub for education centered around the African diaspora.

This project, in partnership with Mario Gooden Studio, provides expanded space for departmental programming and events, including a renovated theater and production spaces, faculty, and community event spaces for Brown University’s Department of Africana Studies.


Visually connected to the street, the addition provides transparency and connectedness to the surrounding campus, celebrating and conveying the important academic and performance-based work transpiring within. The reoriented building entry with a new terrace and ramp is located along the Walk, a vibrant campus green space frequented by students and local community members. Enhancing the visibility of the department on campus, and improving accessibility from the street, this renovation and addition supports Brown University as it works toward goals of diversity and inclusion, sustainability and wellness, and community.


The design highlights the relationship between the Department of Africana Studies and the Rites and Reason Theater. Throughout the building, the department’s shared wall with the theater features a pattern mirroring that on the facade of the addition, forging connections between the building’s interior and exterior, and highlighting the presence of the theater within the Department.


Along the lobby’s southern wall, the entrance to the theater is framed with a custom perforated panel with an intricate fractal pattern. The fractal, a geometric pattern with inlaid shapes that grow and shrink in scale, references patterns used in West African cultural artifacts such as textiles and architecture. This fractal pattern is recalled throughout the department and is used in the supergraphics on select feature walls on each level of the building.


Providence, RI


Brown University



MFA Design Team

Karen Fairbanks, Scott Marble, Tanya Gershon, Jason Roberts, Diego Arango, Elliot Park, Kristy Cho, Brian Castro

Associate Architect

Mario Gooden Studio


Vanderweil Engineers

Civil Engineering

Woodard & Curran

Geotechnical Engineering

GZA GeoEnvironmental

Landscape Architecture

Stimson Landscape Architects

Fire Alarm, Fire Protection, Code

Jensen Hughes

Energy Modeling

Andelman and Lelek


Siemens Industries

Building Envelope

Building Enclosure Science

Acoustical Consulting

Threshold Acoustics

Theater and Performance

Theatre Projects

Lighting Design

Tillotson Design Associates

Structural Engineer

Odeh Engineers

Specifications Writer

Construction Specifications Inc.