Open June 2011.
The 22,000-square-foot building being constructed at the intersection of Dearborn and Superior streets was designed by the Chicago firm John Ronan Architects.
Visitors will enter the building by walking through a garden that is conceived of as an urban sanctuary, a space that, in the words of the architect, “mediates between the street and the building, blurring the hard distinctions between public and private.”
Ronan said the design of the building and the strategic use of materials are intended to mirror the way in which people read poetry. “Just as good poetry doesn’t always divulge all of its meanings on first reading, the new building will engage the public’s curiosity and unfold in stages,” said Ronan, who is widely recognized as a leader among the younger generation of Chicago architects.
The project is intended to be environmentally sustainable and will comply with the Silver Level of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System®. The building design integrates a number of sustainable design strategies and energy-efficient systems. An area planted with trees and open to the public makes up over 20 percent of the site. Other features include high-efficiency glazing systems, automated lighting controls, high- efficiency plumbing fixtures, a partial green roof, and finishing materials that are locally sourced and/or produced from renewable or recycled sources.
The total projected cost for the building, including land acquisition, is $21.5 million. In addition to other benefits associated with the “home for poetry,” the Foundation’s board sees constructing and owning a space designed specifically for poetry as a wise use of the organization’s assets.
Funding for Poetry Foundation programming has been made possible through a generous bequest from Indianapolis pharmaceutical heiress Ruth Lilly. Lilly, who died in December at age 94, began her long association with Poetry magazine by submitting poems. Although they were not published, she apparently appreciated the magazine’s concern for fledgling writers. In 1986 she began endowing a $100,000 annual prize to poets in recognition of lifetime achievement. In 1989 she created Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships of $15,000 each, awarded annually by the Poetry Foundation to undergraduate or graduate students selected through a national competition. In 2008 the Foundation increased the number of Lilly Fellowships awarded each year from two to five. “The Foundation is deeply grateful to Ruth Lilly for her profound generosity to this organization and to the overall advancement of poetry in our society,” said Barr. “This building will stand as a living memorial to her and help spread her appreciation of poetry and its benefits to many others.”
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine and one of the largest literary organizations in the world, exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org. Follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at facebook.com/poetryfoundation or on Twitter @PoetryFound.
Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Monroe’s “Open Door” policy, set forth in Volume I of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry’s mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every major contemporary poet.