Poetry is an art almost as ancient as architecture, and its appreciation remains as important today as ever. However, as cities and communities grow larger and busier, those spaces that allow poetry lovers access to the art form are likely to be located in the heart of the hustle and bustle. These amazing poetry centres have all used architecture to create a quiet space amongst the urban jungle for visitors to stop, relax, and enjoy poetry.
University of Arizona Poetry Center / Line and Space
Designed by Line and Space architects, the University of Arizona’s poetry center has spaces that progress from west to east. Image source
Since opening back in 2008, the University of Arizona has been home to one of the finest collections of Contemporary Poetry in North America, and such an impressive collection deserves an equally impressive home. The University of Arizona's Helen S. Schaefer Poetry Center was designed to become a facility for students, teachers, writers, and the general public to read, research, teach, and contemplate poetry.
When designing the facility, the biggest problem was finding a way to create a space in which active discourse and quiet contemplation could take place side-by-side without disruption. The architects (Line and Space) dealt with this by creating a progression from west to east; starting with the active and open ‘Humanities Seminar Room’ which features transparent walls that can be opened to allow flexibility and host larger events.
As visitors move east through the facility the public spaces dissolve into more intimate spaces, all the way down to the bamboo garden, an outdoor space designated for solitude and contemplation.
Poetry Foundation, Chicago, USA (John Ronan Architects)
The Poetry Foundation opened in 2011 in Chicago. Image source
The Poetry Foundation, opened in 2011 in Chicago, USA, creates a boundary between in its inner, contemplative spaces and that of the busy streets of Chicago. In order to set the tone of the space, visitors enter the Poetry Foundation through a garden which not only creates an immediate disconnect from the bustle city streets, but allows visitors to view the double-height library space, in a way announcing to them that they are entering into a literary environment.
Further inside the Poetry Foundation building, an exhibition gallery connects the library to a performance space. This is where visitors are able to listen to poets read their work against the backdrop of the garden. The building was designed so that all public spaces within have views into the garden, and its outer layer of oxidised zinc becomes perforated where it borders the garden.
This allows the garden to be seen from the street, encouraging the general public to seek quiet refuge within. From inside, the zinc wall actually serves to internalize the garden and create a sense of distance and removal from the outside world.
Scottish Poetry Library Building, Edinburgh, Scotland (Malcolm Fraser Architects)
Edinburgh's Scottish Poetry Library underwent a £500,000 refurbishment in 2015. Image source
Edinburgh's Scottish Poetry Library has been in operation since 1999, undergoing a £500,000 refurbishment in 2015 after being closed to the public for 6 months. Originally designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects, the building was shortlisted for “Building of the Year” in 2000 by UK TV network Channel 4, and was included in Prospect magazine's 2005 list of the 100 best modern Scottish buildings.
Described as “a poem in glass and stone”, the redevelopment added more space within the library for materials, as well as providing visitors with access to soundproofed space in which to hold lessons and workshops without disturbing other patrons. The new layout, designed by Nicoll Russell Studios and built by fit-out contractor Morris & Spottiswood, also added a terrace area and improved reading and education facilities as well as a retail area.
The Pavilosta Poet Huts architecture competition is tasking architecture enthusiasts with creating an inviting retreat within the quaint fishing village on the western coast of Latvia. Already a popular European tourist destination, Pavilosta is known for its long sandy beach and idyllic Baltic Sea waters.
In addition to designing the “Poet Huts” for the artists in residence, participants are being asked to design a multifunctional space to facilitate small exhibitions, presentations and group gatherings, as well as permanent accommodation for the host family.
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