Architect: John Ronan Architects
Location: 61 West Superior Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Project Team: John Ronan AIA, Lead Designer; Tom Lee, Project Architect; Evan Menk, Senior Technical Coordinator; John Trocke, Marcin Szef, Wonwoo Park
Program Manager: U.S. Equities Realty
Project Area: 26,000 sqf
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing
The new home for the Poetry Foundation is comprised of a building in dialogue with a garden which is created through erosion of an implied volume as described by the L-shaped property boundary. The garden space, which formally interlocks with the enclosed building, is conceived as another “room” of the building, and part of the building’s slowly-unfolding spatial sequence, which is revealed space by space, not unlike a poem is revealed line by line.
Visitors enter the project through the garden, an urban sanctuary that mediates between the street and enclosed building. Entering the garden, visitors perceive the double-height library space, announcing that they are entering into a literary environment. Inside the building, an exhibition gallery connects the library to the performance space, where visitors listen to poets read their work against the backdrop of the garden.
Public functions—the performance space, gallery and library—are located on the building’s ground floor, while offices space are located on the second level, organized into three areas (Foundation Administration, Poetry magazine/website, and Programs). The building is configured to allow for views from all spaces into the garden.
Tectonically, the building is conceived of as a series of layers that visitors move through and between. Layers, of zinc, glass, and wood, peel apart to define the various spaces of the building. The building’s outer layer of oxidized zinc becomes perforated where it borders the garden, allowing visual access to the garden from the street to encourage public investigation. Inside the garden, the zinc screen wall serves to internalize the garden experience and provide a sense of removal, to prepare visitors for the experience inside.