Poetry Foundation Winner

Interior Architecture Award, Honor Award

The building interior of the Poetry Foundation is a slowly-unfolding spatial sequence revealed space by space, not unlike a poem which is revealed line by line. Spatially layered such that multiple spaces can be perceived simultaneously, one can look into the library from the second floor through the gallery or sit in the building’s performance space and look into the library through the garden.

Visitors move through a series of material layers (zinc, glass, wood) to experience the building. A continuous wall of birch plywood bookshelves weaves through the interior, starting in the library and continuing through the second floor office area (working library) before dropping down to surround the poets’ performance space. The express goal of the performance space was to make it acoustically optimal for the spoken word, which was achieved using a variety of materials—glass, concrete, fabric, concrete block—to isolate outside noise and enhance room acoustics.

A three-run stair wraps around an interior bamboo garden skylit from above, leading to a serene workspace on the second level configured into three areas--foundation administration, magazine, and programs—with views into the garden, which from this vantage point appears as another “room” of the building.

John Ronan Architects
Poetry Foundation
  • Arup
  • Charter Sills
  • dbHMS
  • Threshold Acoustics LLC
  • U.S. Equities Realty
General contractor
Norcon, Inc.
Chicago, IL