internationally-recognized design firm based in Chicago and comprised of dedicated design professionals committed to producing architecture of the highest quality, marked by conceptual innovation, exploration of materiality, and a rigorous attention to detail. The firm has a studio culture and its working method is research-based and collaborative. Led by John Ronan FAIA, the firm pursues an iterative design methodology to explore and test a wide range of ideas in order to find the response that feels intuitively correct for each situation, based on its unique site, program and context (cultural, historical, economic, social). Working across a wide range of scales and project types, there is a searching quality to the studio’s work which seeks to produce that which is compelling and memorable.
With projects worldwide, the firm offers a variety of design services (architecture, urban design, planning, landscape design, interior design and graphic design) and pursues an interdisciplinary approach to design which seeks out the leading experts and consultants as collaborators. To each project the office brings an exploratory attitude and a concern for issues of sustainability and building performance over time.
The firm’s history is marked by a steady rise to prominence since its inception. In 1999, John Ronan was a winner in the Townhouse Revisited competition sponsored by the Graham Foundation in Chicago. The practice started with gallery and residential projects, and in December of 2000 the firm was included by Architectural Record magazine in its inaugural Design Vanguard issue. The firm rose to national prominence in 2004 as the “dark horse” winner of the Perth Amboy High School Design Competition, a two-stage international design competition to design a 472,000 square foot high school in New Jersey that included finalist architectural heavyweights Morphosis and Eisenman Architects. Numerous educational and institutional commissions followed. In 2006, the firm was featured in the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices and featured in the Young Chicago exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. The practice received a prestigious commission when selected for the Poetry Foundation building in Chicago in 2010, a search that started with 50 architects from around the world.
Publications followed. In 2010, Princeton Architectural Press published Explorations: The Architecture of John Ronan, a monograph on the firm’s work, and in 2015 The Center for American Architecture and Design at the University of Texas published The Poetry Foundation. Since then, John Ronan’s writings and essays have appeared in books, architecture journals and Poetry magazine. In 2017, he was recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award and, also in that year, the Poetry Foundation building was listed as one of the 125 best buildings of the last 125 years by Architectural Record.
The firm portfolio now includes projects across a wide variety of project types and scales, from residential homes to high-rise office buildings, and the studio competes at the highest level of the profession. In 2016, the office was named one of seven international finalists for the Obama Presidential Center, and in 2018 named one of six international finalist firms for the UCD Future Campus project in Dublin. The firm has been the recipient of three AIA Institute National Honor Awards (for The Gary Comer Youth Center, Poetry Foundation and IIT Innovation Center). Firm size is controlled to no more than twenty people in order to ensure the compelling and memorable design response to each commission that the studio takes on.