Zinc Wall Panels, Poetry, and the Public

Poetry FoundationBy: Jane Martinsons, Metal Construction Association

How do you design a Chicago cultural destination that will carry out the mission of the building owner, the Poetry Foundation, to celebrate the best poetry and put it before the largest possible audience?

Certainly, it’s no easy task. But renowned architect John Ronan of John Ronan Architects, Chicago, chose to wrap much of the new Poetry Foundation Building in a black zinc perforated screenwall, fabricated by VMZinc and installed by Tuschall Engineering Co., Inc., so that, when viewed from the front, the metal building becomes transparent and invites those on the street into an open-air garden to hear poetry and enjoy a place of quiet contemplation.

The garden is an urban sanctuary of sorts—a space that, according to Ronan, “mediates between the street and the building, blurring the hard distinctions between public and private.”

Ronan said the design of the building and the use of materials, such as perforated zinc wall panels, are intended to mirror the way in which people read poetry. “Just as good poetry doesn’t always divulge all of its meanings on the first reading, the new building will engage the public’s curiosity and unfold in states,” said Ronan.

Chicago Poetry Foundation New Building

Opened in June 2011, the Poetry Foundation’s new 22,000-sq.-ft., LEED-Silver home is one of only a few public spaces in the country built exclusively for the advancement of poetry.

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