Worcester Blackstone Visitors CenterWorcester, Massachusetts

Rising like a phoenix from the ashes— literally. The Blackstone Visitors Center in Worcester, MA, was originally planned as an adaptive reuse renovation of the former Washburn & Moen mill in Worcester’s Quinsigamond Village. Then, in 2010, a fire swept through the original mill, burning it to the ground and prompting a radical redesign for an entirely new building. Today, the building occupies 11,000 square feet of the 4.5 acre site. At the northern end, a hardscaped “events pavilion” features robust infrastructure for concerts and events; and to the south, a large, grassy expanse serves as a “festival lawn” for outdoor recreation. Positioned between the two outdoor spaces is the visitors center building and infrastructure. All three components are tied together by a pedestrian walkway and bridge that extends over the Blackstone Canal. A series of steel “site frames” span across the walkway at the same height as the building, pavilion, and bridge to unite the site as a singular entity.

Indoors, visitors find themselves surrounded by features that speak to the site’s industrial heyday, when the Washburn & Moen Factory churned out rope wire seven days a week. Wire screens throughout serve as a nod to the site’s original usage, and the reclaimed bricks that comprise the facade and site walls are caged in wire Gabion baskets. The building’s roof is reminiscent of the distinctive sawtooth monitors from the old mill building, newly refreshed by a folded roof plane. Placing these familiar elements within a modern context honors the site’s richly historical narrative, while leaving space for today’s Quinsigamond Village community to write its own.