When the Chicago architect Jeanne Gang completed Aqua, an eighty-two-story mixed-use tower, in 2010, it became an instant landmark—no small feat in a city that boasts one of the most pedigreed architectural skylines in the world. The building’s stand-out feature is its contoured, rippling façade: thin concrete ledges protrude from a rectangular glass slab, with each floorplate uniquely shaped and jutting out to form balconies, create shade, and break the city’s notoriously harsh winds. The building is emblematic of Gang’s approach, which marries ingenious engineering with refined aesthetics.
Jeanne established her firm, Studio Gang, in 1997, and her team of seventy-five includes not only architects, but also planners, artists, policy specialists, and other creative professionals. The firm’s work ranges from private residences to urban plans, small pavilions to large cultural institutions. Gang avoids talking about form, preferring to emphasize a process involving prolonged investigations into materials, structures, and environmental and social impact. Her cross-disciplinary, research-driven approach was evident in the participatory installations that enlivened her solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012–13. She also makes time for independent research projects that reflect what she calls “actionable idealism,” as in Polis Station, a plan to recreate police stations as community hubs to help build trust between police and their communities.
As William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the Academy, Gang will participate in the Conversations | Conversazioni series on May 24 and return to Rome to complete her residency in 2017.