Architecture and design meet the
beauty of poetic license at the new home for the Poetry Foundation
in Chicago's River North neighborhood. Completed in June 2011, the
$21.5 million project is made up of a 22,000-square-foot building
and a 4,000-square-foot garden. The Foundation's new home includes
public spaces of a library, gallery and performance space, as well
as office and support spaces.
Architect John Ronan of Chicago-based John Ronan Architects,
explains that the building was conceived as a series of layers of
different materials-zinc, glass and wood-that visitors move through
and between, creating an unfolding sequence of spaces, similar to
how a poem unfolds line by line.
A wall of perforated zinc separates the building and garden from
the street outside, which allows visitors to feel a part of the
city, but removed at the same time. "The perforated zinc lends an
air of mystery to the building, which is meant to intrigue
passers-by and invite them to enter and explore," Ronan adds.
Along with the perforated zinc panels, an interior glass
curtainwall also makes up the building exterior. As Ronan
describes, "The glass wall moves in and out, coming closer to the
zinc wall to create compression, and then moving away from the zinc
wall to create the major areas of the garden, through which people
move to enter the building."
The building and the garden work together, in such a way that
the garden is created through an erosion of the implied volume as
described by the site's L-shaped property boundary, resulting in a
relationship whereby the enclosed building spaces interlock with
the exterior spaces of the garden. This allows the garden to be
seen as another "room" of the building, and part of the building's
slowly unfolding spatial sequence, which is revealed space by
Visitors walk through the garden before reaching the building,
where the start of the literary environment is announced with a
double-height library space bordering the garden. Inside, an
exhibition gallery connects the library to the poetry reading room,
where poets can perform their work against the garden backdrop. The
second floor is home to the foundation's office space, organized
into three areas corresponding to operations-administration,
Poetry magazine/website staff and programs staff. The
building's internal arrangement allows for views from all spaces
back out onto the garden.
Umicore Building Products USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C., supplied
19,500 square feet of 1-mm Corrugated ANTHRA-Zinc panels for the
exterior of the building. Fabricated and installed by Tuschall
Engineering in Burr Ridge, Ill., the project also features 6,500
square feet of perforated paneling surrounding the garden.
Poetry Foundation, Chicago
Award: 2012 AIA Institute Honor Award for
Architect: John Ronan Architects, Chicago
General contractor: Norcon Inc., Chicago
Metal panel fabricator/installer: Tuschall
Engineering, Burr Ridge, Ill.
Metal panels: Umicore Building Products USA Inc.,
Raleigh, N.C., www.vmzinc-us.com