Behind an Unmarked Door on the West Side...

In a lot of American cities, the West Side is the place of realness (Chicago, Philadelphia, pre-insanity Manhattan). The West Sides are earthier and grittier and cheaper, and therefore where you're more likely to find designers' studios -- the interesting ones, at least.

For the past 20 years, Providence's West Side (the West End, if you prefer), has attracted migrants from ever-pricier neighborhoods on the East Side, and restaurants, microbreweries, food markets and coffee shops have sprung up to challenge the auto-body shops and car-parts stores that used to dominate commercial activity.

DUAL's new building, a converted light industrial structure from, well, some point in the past century, is a good example. It's a compelling combination of new and old, with raw timber beams and whitewashed concrete-block pillars shored up by new steel wide flange beams and columns. An inserted mezzanine occupies the back of the building, overlooking the dramatic double-height central space, making for an unusually strong and dynamic sectional quality.

A film production company bought and converted the building 15 years ago as a soundstage, and that idea defines the pragmatic, workshop-like character of the space. It's a perfect fit for DUAL's affinity for melding raw and historic character into modern, functional space. We design spaces that are ready to be used in many ways, so fittingly our new office neighbors are other creative professionals working in film and video, industrial design, and software.

Our old office's perch above Westminster Street's urban bustle could always pique the mind. But the soul prefers our current situation on the edge of a 20-foot cubic void with high windows framing a view of the open sky, a space something like a post-industrial urban monastery.