“Most people think architects design buildings and cities. What we design are relationships – because cities are about people – they are places where people come together for all kinds of exchange”- Jeanne Gang
Born on 19th March 1964, in Illinois, she received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois and went on to Harvard’s GSD for her Masters. She worked as a project architect and lead designer at renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, Netherlands before founding her studio in 1997.
She is recognized internationally for her socially engaged design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities, and environments. Her analytical and creative approach has produced some of today’s most compelling architecture, which draws insight from ecological systems.
Her design, the Vista Tower, which upon completion, will become the third tallest building in Chicago and will surpass her famous work- the Aqua Tower, which currently stands as the world’s tallest building designed by a woman.
Some of the notable projects under her firm Studio Gang are:
1. Writers Theatre: Glencoe, Illinois
Area: 36,000 sq ft
Consisting of two performance venues- a 250-seat main stage and a 99-seat black box venue, the theatre also has rehearsal rooms and other public amenities, opening to central space. A second-floor gallery walk is structured by timber Vierendeel trusses and a lighter wood lattice hung in tension from the primary structure, providing views toward the downtown, lake, and nearby grove.
The central hub opens to the adjacent public park and downtown, in warm weather, allowing the energy and interaction generated within the theater to extend outward into the community beyond. At night, it glows from within like a lantern, drawing interest and activity to this important cultural anchor and downtown Glencoe. The building is bird safe.
2. Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Area: 10,000 sq ft
The building brings together students, faculty, visiting scholars, social justice leaders, and members of the public for conversation and activities aimed at creating a more just world. The center’s design is daylit and visually open which encourages convening in configurations that begin to break down psychological and cultural barriers between people and help facilitate understanding. The living room, hearth, and kitchen for sharing food at the center of the building create the potential for frequent informal meetings and casual or chance encounters. The high-performance facade is made of low -tech and inexpensive wood masonry with the wooden
walls sequestering more carbon than what was emitted building them.
3. Aqua Tower: Chicago, Illinois
Area: 1.9 M sq ft
The undulating 82- storey (876 ft), mixed-use residential tower design was inspired by the striated limestone outcroppings common in the Great Lakes area. Its distinctive form that was achieved by varying the floor slabs across the height of the tower was also designed strategically to extend the views and maximize solar shading. Aqua’s green roof is one of the largest in Chicago.
4. Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo: Chicago, Illinois
Area: 14 acres
Circumscribing the South Pond, the boardwalk passes through various educational zones that share information about different animals, plants, and habitats. A pavilion integrated into the boardwalk sequence provides shelter for open-air classes and other events on-site. The design improves the water quality and plant variety making it a more diverse animal habitat, reducing reliance on aging city infrastructure.
The pavilion is made of prefabricated glulam wood ribs and fiberglass domes. Each piece was designed to be light enough for workers to lift and install by hand.
5. Solar Carve: New York
Area: 1,45,500 sq ft
Exploring the potentials to have a positive impact on the environment, in response to solar access, Solar Carve is sculpted by the angles of the sun. The building’s unique form is based on the geometric relationships between the allowable envelope and sun path. The gem-like facade allows the building to benefit the important public green space with light, fresh air, and river views to the public park. It is now a new iconic silhouette on the New York skyline.
6. Vista Tower: Chicago, Illinois
Year: Under Construction (2020)
Area: 19,00,000 sq ft
The 101 stories tall (1,196 ft) luxury high rise residential/hotel is all set to become the world’s tallest building designed by a woman and the third tallest in the city on completion. The building is designed to complement the Aqua skyscraper, with its three interconnected volumes of differing heights. The overall flowing appearance of the building is the result of an alternating geometry between these three volumes that appear to be moving rhythmically in and out of a plane. The towers are inspired by the frustums and come with a gradient of colored glass allowing for unique responses to the various conditions that improve the building’s overall environmental performance
Studio Gang has been designing and constructing bird-safe structures, incorporating visual noise elements like pattern-forming balconies and angled, downward-sloping glass so that birds can easily locate the buildings without fatally drawing them down from their migratory routes.
Jeanne has also designed an experimental prairie ecosystem on her firm’s rooftop that modelizes urban rooftops to create a habitat in the sky and amplify urban biodiversity on a regional, and ultimately global scale. Within the soft prairie landscape is a transparent treehouse pavilion that hosts office gatherings, workshops, and other events.
In 2018, Jeanne Gang closed the gender wage gap at her firm and urged other architecture firms to do the same as she calls gender pay gap Architecture’s great injustice.
Jeanne is a Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the author of three books on architecture, and a monograph of the Studio’s work.
She is a 2017 William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome, and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She’s also a recipient of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, Louis I.Kahn Memorial Award, and the Marcus Prize for Architecture.
References: Studio Gang