Doors Opened to RI's hidden cities

Not long after moving to London, in 2005, we heard about an event from friends who had been living there for several years: Open House. For one weekend in September, private buildings all over the city opened up for Londoners to walk and gawk through. My highlight that year was touring Richard Rogers' Lloyds building, an icon of High-Tech architecture. The photo I snapped from its glass elevator, hovering over the city with St. Paul's dome in the near distance, is still one of my favorite images.

When the Doors Open RI launched its Providence festival in 2017, the architectural delights were smaller in scale. But similar to London was the sense of excitement, racing from one site to another as we tried to check as many sites as we could off our list, and rediscovering the city we live in as though an eager tourist.

The word "community" is so often invoked today, but events like Doors Open actually create it, quickly and from scratch. Standing in lines for a privileged sneak peak of otherwise inaccessible places creates comrades out of strangers. Conversations strike up easily: "Did you guys go over to... ?" "Oh yeah, that was great, hardly any line either."

Last weekend's festival in Pawtucket and Central Falls was proof that a city needn't be big to host a great Doors Open. Volunteers were eager and proud to welcome visitors to their cities, too often overlooked despite their remarkable built heritage.

The dank Grotto beneath Cogswell Tower, the silent generators of the hydroelectric station on the Blackstone River, the cavernous, empty auditorium of the Elks' Lodge: these spaces, once secret, are now places that we know. Passing by, we'll say to our companions, "You can't tell from the outside, but inside there's this amazing..." That knowledge is power, to know our cities and bind us to them.

Congratulations to Caroline and her team for bringing Doors Open back in such a memorable way.