Local Landscape Architect Designs Station  Fire  Memorial
(Alan Ahlstrom, RLA, CH of Havenwood, llc along with Stephen Greenleaf , AIA and Thomas Viall donate New Design Plans for the Station Nightclub Fire Memorial to the Station Fire Memorial Foundation )

Birds Eye View.
Date: February 17th, 2013
At the 10th year anniversary Memorial Service at the site of the Station Night club and temporary memorial, the New Plans for a Permanent Memorial were revealed. 

Station Fire Memorial 2013 Narrative

 To honor, to gather, to celebrate, to pray, to support, to educate and most of all… to remember.

These have always been the goals of a permanent memorial at the site of the tragic 2003 Station Nightclub fire.  A decade after the fire, and five years since submitting our first preliminary design, we are proud to present an updated and refined plan to the Board to begin the process of constructing a permanent memorial on the land now fully in their possession.


 Gate and Wind Harp: Among the most prominent features of new plan is a gate towering nearly 30’, marking the entrance to the memorial site.  This feature is designed to be visible to travelers on Cowessett Avenue from both directions and will serve as a signature landmark for the permanent memorial.  The aluminum gate will be custom fabricated for the site and at its peak incorporate an Aeolian Harp containing strings representing each victim of the fire.

One of the oldest of all stringed instruments, the Aeolian Harp uses only the vibration of the wind to create soothing and ethereal sounds. As gentle breezes pass through the gate the harmonic vibrations of each string will resonate, creating a musical soundtrack for the site reminding us how music was one of the main forces that originally brought people to this very spot.  

Memorial Plaque: It was important to commemorate the transition between the permanent park and the ‘temporary’ memorials that has meant so much to so many over the past decade.   A shallow area will be excavated in what was the approximate center of the original parking area of the nightclub.  The families of the victims will be invited to place one or two small items from their temporary memorials into this area. Once the last item has been placed, the area will be covered with a stone plaque commemorating the date and exact time of the fire.

Entrance: The gate spans a low stone wall which divides the 20 car parking lot from the rest of the park situated on the 7/10s of an acre site at the corner of Cowessett Avenue and Kulas Road in West Warwick.

Visitors pass under the gate leaving the bustling world behind and transporting them into a space carefully designed to accommodate those that wish to commune and those that require solitary reflection. They may take any one of three paths that lead up a gentle slope to a unique pavilion set above a landscape of 12 intimate Memorial Circles which celebrate the lives of those lost in the tragedy.  Each element of this design has been carefully planned to honor the spirit of those who have been lost and the hopes and prayers of those who will never forget.

Memorial Gardens: Individual memorials to the 100 victims will be nestled within these dozen circular areas divided between the Eastern and Western walkways bordering each side of the park. Centered within each garden will be a stone bench.  The design allows those walking through the park to comfortably pass behind those visitors who wish to sit and reflect on a single memorial.

 Individual Monuments: Placed along the circumference of each circle will be 8 to 10 individual monuments.  Engraved polished granite will commemorate each victim with his or

her name and date of birth.  Some visitors may recognize the general shape of these monuments that, like many of the park’s features, has been purposely designed to reflect the love of music shared by so many of the victims.  Each monument will also contain its own lighting source to offer soft illumination after dusk.

The Commemorative Walkway: Passing under the gate, visitors can move directly ahead to the elevated courtyard and pavilion along the memorial walkway or turn onto one of the two paths leading to the Memorial Gardens.  The walkway will be paved with thousands of commemorative bricks purchased by friends, families and loved-ones to support the construction costs of the memorial.  

The Gathering Court: A circular courtyard, 34 feet in diameter, is situated in the geographical center of the site, set directly in front of the Memorial Shelter.  Paved in bluestone, this area becomes the ideal place to bring visitors together so they can share in the experience. During special events the area can accommodate food services and overflow space for events held at the Shelter.

The Memorial Steps:  Divided between either sides of the Gathering Court will be a total of 8 steps.  Each step will be dedicated to a group that played an important role in the tragedy and contain a quote, carved into the step, representing that unique group.

1.   The Survivors
2.   The First Responders
3.   The Caregivers
4.   The Volunteers
5.   The Clergy
6.   The Family Members
7.   The Friends
8.   The State

The overall goal of the memorial steps is to tell the Station Nightclub Fire story in the succinct but heartfelt words of the many people so deeply touched by the event.

The Memorial Shelter: Situated at the highest natural point of the lot, stands the Memorial Shelter. The formidable stone columns of the structure symbolize the tremendous strength of those affected by the fire, while the translucent roof panels supported by intricate trusses serve as a reminder of both the complexity and fragility of life.  This pavilion can be utilized for a variety of special events, or simply a brightly covered space to reflect and pray.

The open-air Shelter will be approximately 19’ by 24’ with a wrap-around porch overlooking the Gathering Court. Two ramps lead up from either side of the structure ensuring that the elevated structure is fully accessible. The translucent roofing panels allow for diffused natural sunlight to filter through to the interior of the Shelter during the day and will be illuminated from below at night.

The rear wall of the Shelter is the only part of the pavilion not open to the rest of the site.  It is the ideal location to showcase either a permanent history, or a series of revolving displays, telling the story and aftermath of February 20th, 2003. 

Additional Notes:
 While the major features of the park have been described there are many additional details incorporated into the design that are just as important.  Great care has been taken to ensure that the Memorial is fully ADA compliant and accessible to all visitors.  The stone angel carving and book commemorating the names of the victim that have been previously donated will both have a permanent and prominent location within the site.  Additionally, a weeping cherry tree, planted soon after the fire, will be carefully transplanted to thrive in a new location on the park grounds.

Through the use of sustainable plantings and paver coloration, visitors to the site may note a series of rings radiating out from each of the twelve Memorial Gardens.  This effect is designed to capture the ripple effect the fire continues to have far beyond the borders of the Ocean State.

There are other more subtle details purposely incorporated into the plan that visitors may discover over time.  These elements are designed to capture the true spirit of so many of the victims – friends who gathered together to share their love of music and fullness of life. 

Sustainability and visitor safety have also been a key priorities of the updated design. Many of the natural and man-made materials have been selected to ensure that the beauty of the Memorial is sustained with a minimum of maintenance, to be safely enjoyed by visitors far into the future.

 While the updated design represents hundreds of hours of effort and thousands of choices there are still countless details to be determined – from the exact color and dimensions of some materials to the efforts of the many local artisans that will undoubtedly contribute their skills to realizing this vision.

The design team has already benefited from a variety of individuals and organizations that

have freely contributed their expertise and skills including:

  1. Peter Cipolla Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) of Cranston for his survey and Robert Boyer PLS of Boyer Associates in West Warwick for his research assistance.
  2. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc for invaluable input on traffic, parking and wetlands issues.
  3. Tom Clark of Clark Instruments in New London for advisement on the Aeolian Harp
  4. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Town of West Warwick for preliminary insights into the permitting process
  5. Paul Amaral at Amaral Custom Fabrications of Bristol for his contributions to the design of the gate and wind harp.
  6. Abernathy Lighting Design and their guidance on illuminating the site
  7. Catherine Druken, a URI Landscape Architect student, for rendering the 3D views of the design
  8. Michael Picard of Lincoln, RI,  a Landscape Architect with Sudbury Design Group for the color rendering, scanning and printing of the plans and elevations.
  9. John D. Sinott of Gilbane Construction and Michael Sabitoni of Local 271 who have volunteered their substantial organizations to help realize the design
  10. Numerous friends and colleagues  in the Architecture and Engineering community for their insight and advise
  11. The Board of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation for the years of patience and persistence in the construction of a permanent memorial to honor the victims of the Station Fire.
  12. David Renzi for his valuable advice on invasive plant treatment and removal


The Station Fire Memorial Design Team:
Stephen Greenleaf, Architect                                                                            Thomas Viall, Designer
Alan Ahlstrom, Landscape Architect

For Further information, schedule an Interview or for additional photos please call Alan Ahlstrom at 401.727.9958 via e-mail at a.ahlstrom@havenwoodllc.com  or at the web Site www.havenwoodllc.com .

Additional information can be acquired through the following organizations.
Station Fire Memorial Foundation – www.stationfirememorialfoundation.org















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