BASE: Advancing a post-military landscape
 Project description

Quonset Point

 Admin. Triangle
 W'house Triangle
 Camp Endicott
 Camp Thomas
 Adv. Base Depot
 Adv. Base Proving
 West Davisville


Historic images

Quonset hut


Enlisted Barracks in Davisville's Administrative Triangle.

BASE is a photographic archive that seeks to document the last days of two adjacent Navy facilities located on the shores of Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay: the Quonset Point Naval Air Station and the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center. Between 1940 and 1974, these facilities performed separate but linked functions that were crucial to Navy operations in World War II and the wars that followed. They were equally crucial to the state and regional economy, employing tens of thousands of civilians and service people over the course of 34 years.

By 1974, military cost cutting led to Quonset's closure. The facility at Davisville fared somewhat better in subsequent years, but after two decades of scaling back it too was decommissioned, in 1994. Because no redevelopment plan was ever finalized, many of the original buildings, roads and landscape arrangements of Quonset and Davisville remained remarkably intact over the years. Barracks, dining halls, training centers, recreational and repair facilities, hangars and warehouses have remained closed for years behind miles of chain fence. Sinking into decay, the architectural features of this man-made landscape now stand in strange harmony with re-established elements of the natural landscape.

Since the early 1970's, the future use of this vast tract of underutilized property has remained uncertain. The question of how the former military facility may best be used remains a topic of debate among state officials, local community members, ecologists and developers. In addition to documenting Quonset/Davisville's historic structures, BASE seeks to ask questions about our relationship to the built environments we create. What value is to be placed on a planned landscape once the plan becomes obsolete? Can we separate its value from its usefulness? Can we find value in the current state of this site as a document of who we are as a community, and where we have come from?

A base may be a "home base" — a foundation or starting point; it may also be a point of reference and return. When laying out a future for our surroundings, one of the most significant questions we might ask is what came before? Another question, one that environmental concerns only begin to approach, is what is here now? As the mid-20th Century military incarnation of Quonset Point makes way for 21st Century commerce and life, BASE seeks to build a present-day portrait of this place whose importance would seem to exist only in its future and its past. Perhaps only after weighing these two forces on the lands around us will we be prepared to consider what comes next.

© Copyright 2000 Erik Carlson and Erica Carpenter     Top