Audrain Building

Newport, RI


Project Manager: David Louttit
Architect: Northeast Collaborative Architects
Engineer: Camera/O'Neill Consulting Engineers
Site Superintendent: John Murdock
Ben Jacobsen

It began as a fast-paced project meant to renovate the second floor and restore the exterior of the historic Audrain Building on Newport’s Bellevue Ave. A month into the project the scope was expanded — rather than leave the first floor mostly untouched, the owners decided the ground level would become home to a sleek automobile museum. 

In order to achieve this, the entire structural framework of the building had to be reworked, and quickly. A system of trusses was designed by Camera/O’Neill Consulting Engineers, this would provide the support necessary for the building to bear the weight of the car collection while still allowing the first floor to exist as an open space with clear sight lines, making for an excellent exhibition space.

The pace of the job only accelerated as work progressed, with subcontractors from all trades working in close, often overlapping spaces. It was a challenge for all PCCI management on site: running two, sometimes three, shifts a day while properly sequencing all trades in a given area, and negotiating design changes and long lead times. As the end of the summer approached a final “all hands on deck” push was made.

The result: an open first floor home to a revolving collection of antique cars; the aesthetic is an industrial one garnered from the design of Northeast Collaborative Architects (NCA) and showing in particular in the exposed trusses and pipes hanging above the museum space and in the bathrooms, clad entirely in stainless steel from the countertops to the imposing stall doors. 

The second floor opens from an ornate elevator cage to an upscale office suite designed by NCA to call-back the early twentieth century – the era in which the building was built. No detail went unappreciated in selecting the many accessories, from the faucets to the decorative light fixtures to the buttons on the elevator panel. The centerpiece of the second floor is an imposing conference room, encased floor to ceiling in cherry millwork and boasting four large arch windows, a wood-burning fireplace, and a custom conference table running nearly the length of the room.

Moving outside, the building’s exterior façade has seen masons repoint the brick work and clean the original terracotta details. The original rooftop balustrade adorned with twelve lion finials has been painstakingly recreated using early-twentieth century photographs of the building as the only guide in restoring this unique decoration.