American Writers Museum opens on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue

Amaze Design designed the 10,000-sf space.

May 18, 2017 |

Photo courtesy of Amaze Design.

Located in an ordinary building whose bottom floor is occupied by a bank at 180 N. Michigan Avenue is a museum the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else in the country. The American Writers Museum, a project seven years in the making, officially opened to the public on May 16.

According to project designer Amaze Design, the museum is “the first national museum in the United States dedicated to the celebration of American writers and the exploration of their influences on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.”

A small museum dedicated to American writers sitting one floor above a bank in a non-descript Chicago building may at first sound like the type of museum you stumble across while on a cross-country road trip: the New England Maple Museum, the National Mustard Museum, or the broadly (and most definitely aptly) titled Museum of the Weird. The American Writers Museum could very easily have taken on the appearance of a musty, forgotten corner of a local library; the acidic, vanilla-laced smell of old books heavy in the air.


Photo courtesy of Amaze Design.


The museum didn’t go in that direction, however. Instead, perhaps ironically, the museum dedicated to the greatest Americans to ever lay ink on paper integrates a heavy dose of technology into the museum’s 10,000 sf.

Bright colors, colored lights, and large, interactive touchscreens highlight the space. “The museum covers the breadth and range of American writers through unexpected, in-depth, immersive, and hands-on exhibits,” according to the architect.


Photo courtesy of Amaze Design.


Included in the museum are permanent exhibitions highlighting Chicago writers, a children’s literature gallery, and a “Word Waterfall.” Current temporary exhibits include Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript scroll for On the Road and Palm, an exhibit inspired by the life and work of the American poet W.S. Merwin.

Amaze Design was responsible for all design, research, media production, and fabrication and installation, which were accomplished through collaborative partnerships.

The project had a budget of $10 million.


Photo courtesy of Amaze Design.


Photo courtesy of Amaze Design.

Overlay Init