Line and Space completes the new Poetry Center for University of Arizona
The first freestanding building on any university campus that is solely dedicated to celebrating and advancing poetry and literature, the new Poetry Center houses one of the most outstanding collections of contemporary poetry in the US. Nearly 70,000 items are now contained in the ever growing collection, including volumes of poetry, journals, photographs and recordings. It is a landmark facility where the mission of providing an outstanding research collection and meeting place for visitors, writers and readers of poetry can be fulfilled.
With such a diverse range of visitors, the floor plan of the facility is conceived as a ’progression towards solitude’. This assures that a wide range of visitors will have no trouble finding a space in the facility that suits their needs. Progression starts at the west with an active and noisy Humanities Seminar Room where glass walls can be opened to allow flexibility within the transition space, and to expand seating for large events. Moving east, public functions dissolve into more intimate spaces within the collection, and finally, one finds themselves in the Bamboo Garden, an outdoor area of solitude and contemplation.
The Poetry Center’s architecture emphasises a thoughtful, environmental approach to building in the Sonoran Desert. This approach places importance on passive design strategies aimed at improving visitor comfort and reducing the resources needed for the building to function. The result is a structure that responds to its environment.
Creating shade for people, building walls and even ground planes is the single most important environmental consideration when designing for the desert. To accomplish this, the building uses a series of stacked roof planes (inspired by the stanzas of a poem) with broad overhangs to shade walls and outdoor gathering areas. At the transition space, the roof plane is perforated with skyholes (unglazed openings in the exterior roof plane), to allow eyes and skin a moment to adjust as one moves between the hot, bright exterior and the cool, daylit interior.