Architect John Ronan
In an exclusive interview with Chicago based Architect John Ronan. John was awarded his second 2012 AIA Institute National Honor Award for Architecture for the Poetry Foundation building in Chicago (The Gary Comer Youth Center won in 2008).
Give us a little bit of an idea of your work environment and a little bit about yourself?
I’ll start with the work environment. We have as you can see an open office. We’re in a big concrete loft. Big open space to kind of foster collaboration and interaction with staff. We have a model shop with a laser cutter and so forth. We make all our models and drawings in-house. Creating physical models are a really important part of our design process. It’s a pretty good model shop. And then the usual conference rooms, library, pantry, kitchen, stuff like that. And lots of light. We recently moved. For many years we were in a timber loft not far from here. But the noise became unbearable so I looked around for a concrete loft and I found this place.
Are there only architects in the office?
I look for people that can add something to what we do. It’s akin to building a sports team. Yes, they’re all architects or training to be. Having said that, they all bring something different and unique to the office. One guy might be very technologically savvy and know a lot about digital fabrication. Somebody else might have certain interests they bring to bear on the work. So I try to look at those things when we’re hiring.
Are most of the projects in Chicago?
No, we work all over the country. We work in Europe and in the Caribbean. Some of my better known projects are in Chicago, though, like the Poetry Foundation and the Gary Comer Youth Center.
Let’s talk about the Poetry Foundation?
I thought the site was good and well situated for a number of reasons. One, it was not far from other cultural institutions like the MCA. The irregular L-shape of site allowed us to make the building more interesting. And the site was in the middle of an area that experienced a construction burst of large condominium buildings over the last fifteen years. This background plays well with the
notion that the Poetry Foundation was really meant to be something of a sanctuary in the city. I think the trend of large condominium buildings will only increase over time in this area. Perhaps in 20 years, in 30 years, this building will be completely surrounded by very tall mid-rise buildings and will become even more of a sanctuary as the open space disappears as this part of the city becomes more dense.