Becca Dolgas

Activating Forces

To return the Governmental House of the people back to the public, the project aims at creating both public and private opportunities to activate the campus. The project inverts the current condition instead of an isolated inward-looking jewel, the State House Campus turns outwards beckoning the public to explore what is rightfully their space, within.

American society is entering a reckoning, one which faces the darkest chapters of its history. In response, the role of commemorative works, as they are integral to our cultural heritage and memory, is under question. With the position that these works have value not as public honorifics but as teaching tools, the proposal is an exhibition for these contentious monuments and our complex history. Here we acknowledge the past while more importantly questioning it, deconstructing motives and learning from it. In the Rhode Island State House's sublevel is a place of exploration, allowing for understanding through a highly considered holistic narrative.


student work

Rhode Island State House Proposed Site Condition

Museum of Contextualized Commemorative Works

Commemorative works are intended as moments of remembrance, and as a way of honoring that past. With this as an understanding of the monument, we must then consider the things we choose to immortalize and why. Memory can be a fickle thing and as such is important that we understand the details behind the monument, both good and bad. These monuments need not serve as immortalization of questionable men and deeds, but as a reminder of what we have been born out of.

In response to the current social climate, is the proposal to allocate the pyramidal foundation structure and the sub-level of the Rhode Island State House to create a museum. The space allows for one to carefully consider a highly contextualized history of the state and nation. The project focuses on creating inclusive experiences, using ramps as the primary form of circulation. The ramps also create opportunities for gradual and varied views of the artifacts. The experience deep within the foundations of the statehouse offers an educational opportunity, one which allows visitors to experience elements of the nation's history within a holistic context. This is a context which considers diverse narratives. The project creates a space in which one not only recognizes the past but is also given the tools to dissect, question, and in turn learn from a multiplicity of histories.


An axonometric demonstrating the exhibition spaces proposed within the sub-level of the Rhode Island State House. The axon includes ramps, details of the two major exhibit spaces, as well as the inventory of contentious monuments.

Museum of Contextualized Commemorative Works Axonometric

Remembering Historic Snowtown, RI

The Rhode Island State House sits atop Smith Hill, looking down on downtown Providence. Before this space was acquired through eminent domain, the hill was once home to a poor, yet highly diverse and vibrant mixed-race community. However in 1831, a racially-charged riot in which over 4 days a white mob destroyed and damaged 18 African-American homes and businesses, assaulted residents, and resulted in 4 deaths. While they would rebuild the riot in conjunction with displacement due to “industrial progress” would compromise the neighborhood. Snowtown would never fully recover and in 1895 the Rhode Island State House was built on the site.  In 1982 the aThe south eastern corner of the State House’s sub-level will transform into a place to explore the history of the site where the structure now exists. The spaces make use of the existing multi-tiered condition to display artifacts found during the archaeological excavation. Then on the lowest tier the space places a scaled model beneath the glazed floor condition, allowing visitors to explore the now lost condition of historic snowtown. The condition aims to create an immersive experience through which one comes to recognize the densely layered condition on which the State House exists.


A perspective view which shows the ramped display cases as well as the embedded scale model of the historic condition of Smith Hill, including the Snowtown Neighborhood condition.

Historic Snowtown Exhibit Perspective

Remembered in Contention

The proposal enters the larger political discourse and offers a possible solution in the consideration of contentious commemorative works across Rhode Island. The position of the project is the aim not to remove, but to contextualize history, and offer the proper spaces for this to occur.  The proposal offers two spaces particularly focused on this outcome.

The first exhibit space shall house contentious monuments from across the state. In this area one has the opportunity to view these monuments alongside informational displays which place the honorifics within their greater historical context. The monuments in conjunction with the greater information serve as a teaching and discussion tool. As a part of this discussion is the opportunity to express one’s own perspective. Each monument shall be lit and in doing so casts a shadow, within that shadow visitors will be welcome to inscribe their own thoughts using chalk paint. The goal is to offer a place for a respectful dialogue surrounding our extraordinary complex history.

The second exhibit is hyper specific to the RI State House and involves the recent change to the state’s name. In 2020 Rhode Island citizens voted and have since removed the word ‘plantations’ from their state name, a move which works towards creating a more inclusive society. With this change comes the question of how to handle moments such as the seal at the center of the State House. The proposal carefully removes and preserves the current seal. Meanwhile, in its place, a new seal, etched in glazing replaces the current. This new seal serves as an oculus in the new museum space below, allowing light to penetrate deep into the statehouse while connecting the original and new narratives.


A perspective which shows the display of contentious monuments from across Rhode Island.

Contentious Monuments Exhibit Perspective

The Rhode Island Seal and Charter