License Plate Design – Final


Part of being an architect is helping support the community. Over the years Ross Cann, RA, AIA, the founding principle of A4 Architecture has served on more than two dozen Newport of Rhode Island boards, committees, or commissions. The firm also sets time aside to do pro bono work on behalf of non-profits. The work is usually architectural in nature, but not always. Last year Jan Slee, the founder of Rhody Lights (an organization that celebrates the many lighthouses of the “Ocean State”), asked A4 Architecture to design a license plate that would celebrate two of Newport’s signature features: The Rose Island Lighthouse (1871) and the Pell Bridge (1968).

Rose Island Lighthouse

This was a particular challenge because the plate design required a low contrast for the placement of the tag. Other areas were reserved for another symbol of the state. The attachment points and the state identification.

License Plate Design – Draft

The team at A4 Architecture which includes Ross Cann, Grayson Scanlon, and Harrison Knight, tried out a large number of images and compositions. Finally, a version of the plate had incorporated the lighthouse at the left side of the plate and cleverly depicted the Pell Bridge in the white to maintain the low contrast that was required by the design guidelines. Just as we thought we were done, Jan asked us to add shield series boats. Shields Fleet 9, for which Ross Cann has served on the race committee, is the leading Shields Fleet in the nation with seven national championships in the fleet of thirty or so boats. These small racing yachts can normally be seen during the late spring, summer, and early autumn racing against one another on Wednesday evenings, and carry on the sailing and yachting tradition that has been apart of Newport since its founding in 1639.

Shields Fleet 9 – Newport, RI

Because there was no room for the date of the Rhode Island Lighthouse construction, Ross suggested that the date be hidden in the sail number of the boats added to the composition immediately below the lighthouse. Sale of the plates to Rhode Islanders who want to show their love to the lighthouse, the Narragansett Bay, and the classic yachting tradition of the community will help channel funds to the Rose Lighthouse foundation, which is the beneficiary of the plate sales.

The Pell Bridge – Newport, RI

This foundation has been instrumental in the restoration of this building, which is now more than 150 years old. The foundation also rents the island for parties (like Jennifer Lawrence’s recent wedding in Newport) and for weekend visits for people who want to escape the “hustle and bustle” of summer in Newport. Preservation of architecture is a team effort and can sometimes involve tasks as varied as designing a license plate.

You can help to support the activities of the RILFH Trust by purchasing the Rose Island Lighthouse Charity License Plate for your car. If you have a passenger car registered in Rhode Island, you are eligible to purchase the Rose Island Lighthouse Charity Plate. You can place your order using the link below.

License Plate Order Form

Ross Cann, RA, AIA, LEED AP, is an author, historian, and practicing architect living and working in Newport, RI. He holds degrees with honor in Architecture from Yale, Cambridge, and Columbia Universities.