“Most people think architects design buildings and cities. What we really design are relationships – because cities are about people – they are places where people come together for all kinds of exchange.” – Jeanne Gang.

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Solstice on the Park, Chicago_©Glass Solutions, Inc.

Whether designing skyscrapers or humble small-scale buildings, the 56-year-old American architect and author Jeanne Gang’s architecture does more than utterly construct structures and communities – it builds relationships – relationships between humans and the built environment, and relationships between humans and each other. 

The architect emphasizes the importance of listening to the context of the project and the world, building programs, master planning, architecture facilitating being a good neighbor, the scale of architecture concerning the ecosystem and the world, and much more. 

Jeanne and Studio Gang have produced a diverse, award-winning body of work. Gang’s innovative and analytical design process has resulted in a diverse range of projects, ranging from cultural to urban designs, theatres to skyscrapers. She and her Studio Gang team have long been applying insights from ecology to the built form, the works sitting at crossroads of nature, culture, and community-driven design. 

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Solstice on the Park_© Silliman Group

Amongst their many notable projects is Solstice on the Park. Solstice on the Park, a 26-story residential tower located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. It gains its form by the angles of the sun and is one of the first Studio Gang projects to scrutinize the notion of solar carving for environmental benefits. Architecture is defined by the maneuvering of light. It shapes how we interpret the built environment as an aspect that governs our perception of form and space. Studio Gang Architects has addressed this concept in a range of projects across the United States. 

With the constant on and off construction work of the building, it was finally erected in the year 2016. The 250-apartments building Solstice has been planned in such a way that it purveys expansive views of Jackson Park to the south and the Chicago skyline to the north. To make further of this milieu, the apartment complex is also crested with a green roof. 

The development includes a library/study area, lounge, café, fitness center, and an exterior pocket park nestled between the tower and the parking garage, which is funded by an adjacent parking structure on the site with 316 spaces. It houses studio apartments to three-bedroom suites on the interior. 

The first floor of Solstice on the Park serves as a social hub, with a library and a brilliantly designed lounge with interconnecting spaces. With poplar fins that conceal lighting and air-handling equipment, the expansive lobby brings the park’s natural quality inside.

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Solstice on the Park_©Studio Gang

The most distinctive feature of the housing structure is a series of sloped curtain walls on the south facade that align with the angle of the sun on the Summer Solstice. This design feature has numerous environmental benefits in addition to creating a visually appealing exterior. The angled cuts in the facade of Solstice on the Park catch the eye because they were designed in response to the best sun angles in Chicago’s latitude — 72 degrees in the summer and 42 degrees in the winter. 

In the summer, the inward incline helps to reduce unwanted solar gain, while in the winter, it maximizes solar advantage from the low sun. This approach allows natural light to flood the building, thus reducing the need for artificial lighting whilst still humbling the strain on the heating and cooling systems.

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Design Features and Views_©Silliman Group

The inward tilted facade allowed for landscaped terraces, allowing residents to enjoy indoor-outdoor living and city views. The inclined floor-to-ceiling expanses of glass also fool the eye, making the nearby park’s treetops appear closer and larger. As the tower rises, each section of tilted glass stretches across two floors, then three, with deep balconies on nearly half of the south-facing units. 

The solar carving strategy for enhancing energy efficiency and comfort in tall buildings is further developed in this design. Solar carving, which was developed as part of the firm’s ongoing tall building research, involves sculpting a building’s form using incident angles of the sun’s rays. 

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Ground Floor Plan_© Studio Gang
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South and East Elevations_© Studio Gang

The pinnacle’s unique south wall has a solid feeling of movement, and not as a result of the rhythms made by the distinctive differentiation between its calculated windows (which sheathe living spaces) and level walls (which clad bedrooms). Indeed, even the galleries made by the calculated windows don’t upset the brilliant look. As at City Hyde Park, which has a similarly enchanting arrangement of overhangs on its south exterior, the thought is a gathered wonder, one in which standard human action adds to, instead of brings down, the structure’s charm. Around 33% of the units have galleries.

The angled walls, made of glass and aluminium, mirror the green of the garden just as the movement of vehicles and people on foot. The zinc that covers the structure’s solid construction shows up light or dim, contingent upon whether the design is level or angled. The proportions — a two-story module at the base grows to three stories at the top — make what could have a simple slab appear to be imperatively vertical. The non-glazed portions of the residential building are clad in 13-millimeter-thick Rieder non-combustible glass-fibre-reinforced concrete panels.

As a sensitive nod to the district’s existing architecture, which is also distinguished by sandstone and brick tones, the selected textured concrete panels come in a variety of colors ranging from liquid black to beige. The lobby’s walls and ceiling are covered in a Rulon wood-slat panel system at the base of the structure. 

The light-beige cladding reflects the materials of the surrounding buildings, while the dark grey panels reflect the internal “muscular” concrete structure. The beige color used in the interior complements the wood finishes found throughout the apartments. The intention to implement these color variations and placements for the facade cladding was to anchor the building in the surrounding municipal area. 

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Typical Floor Plan_©Silliman Group    
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Apartment View_© Studio Gang

The angled design gives the 250-foot tower a distinctly modern edge while preserving in compliance with the city’s boxy skyscrapers. The tower has a lower carbon footprint owing to its careful material selection and passive solar design. The project’s environmentally responsible approach earned it two Green Globes in the Green Globes Certification ranking. 

Amidst a development blast described by dullness instead of boldness, Jeanne Gang’s new loft tower in Hyde Park is a striking special case: a structure that turns the significant however trite undertaking of saving energy into solid visual verse.

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View of Solstice of the Park_©ArchDaily

An architecture student who is a besotted reader and believes that writing is for the soul. She is always receptive and surmises that learning is growing which is fuelled by her fascinated for history, travel, architecture and literature.

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