Spatial Urbanism: The Urban Room

From Architectural Record’s 2018 Innovation Conference
Presented by John Ronan, FAIA, Founding Principal, John Ronan Architects

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain what the spatial conditions are that exist between such concepts as "inside" and "outside."
  2. Enrich the public realm of the urban spatial experience.





John Ronan, FAIA, Founding Principal, John Ronan Architects
John Ronan FAIA is founding principal of John Ronan Architects in Chicago, founded in 1999. He serves as Lead Designer on all projects and is known for his abstract yet sensuous work which explores materiality and atmosphere. John holds a Master of Architecture degree with distinction from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design where he received the Julia Amory Appleton Prize upon graduation, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. In 1999, he was a winner in the Townhouse Revisited Competition staged by the Graham Foundation and his firm rose to national prominence as winner of the Perth Amboy High School Design Competition in 2004, a two-stage international design competition to design a 472,000 square foot high school in New Jersey. In December 2000, he was named as a member of Architectural Record magazine’s inaugural Design Vanguard issue, and in January 2005 he was selected to The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices program. John has lectured widely and his work has been exhibited internationally, including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Architectural League of New York’s Urban Center and the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. His design output has been covered extensively by the international design press. A monograph on his work, entitled Explorations: The Architecture of John Ronan, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010, and a book on his building, The Poetry Foundation, was published by the Center for American Architecture & Design at the University of Texas in 2015. His writings and essays have appeared in books, architecture journals and Poetry magazine, and his firm has been the recipient of numerous design awards including two AIA Institute National Honor Awards. In 2016 was selected as one of seven international finalists for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago and in 2017 John was recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award. In 2017, his Poetry Foundation building was listed as one of the 125 best buildings of the last 125 years by Architectural Record. John is currently the John and Jeanne Rowe Endowed Chair Professor of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture, where he teaches studio courses on architectural design and seminars on the history and theory of material culture in architecture. He has been the Eugene McDermott Centennial Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Professor award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. His interests include drawing, writing and fly fishing. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

In this presentation, John Ronan will discuss the firm's investigations of the relationship between the building and the city, and the exploration of urban spatial conditions that exist between inside and outside, public and private, building and street that expand and enrich the public realm, adding complexity to the urban spatial experience. These "urban room" projects such as the Poetry Foundation, 151 North Franklin office tower, Obama Presidential Center competition design and new IT Innovation Center in Chicago pose the question, "Where does the building end and the city begin?”


Originally published in March 2019