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Jeanne Gang is a visionary leader in contemporary architecture. Her forward-thinking approach to design has carved a distinct niche in the architectural landscape – one driven by a passion for new technical and material possibilities within buildings, alongside the building of communities that connect people and environments.  

Her journey began at the Illinois School of Architecture and continued at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she earned her master’s degree and won a plethora of awards.  

Gang is a champion for women in the architecture and design field, driving the conversation for equal pay and promoting equity within the industry. As the founding partner of Studio Gang and a Professor in Practice at Harvard University, her impact on the next generation of architects is unparalleled.  

Known for projects like the Aqua Tower – the tallest woman-designed building at the time of its completion – to the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History, we will dive into some of Gang’s most prolific pieces.  

Aqua Tower

Completed in 2010, the Aqua Tower stands as a testament to Gang’s ability to push boundaries. At 876 feet high and 82 stories tall, the Aqua Tower is a striking visual among the Chicago skyline.

The biomorphic design of the building is inspired by rocks along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The floor slabs and edges of the building ebb and flow, aesthetically mirroring water. Moreover, its design proves to be ever-functional – with varying depths creating a shading system that promotes energy efficiency and creative outdoor terraces for residents.

Key Takeaways for Architects: The Aqua Tower demonstrates the power of biophilic design, drawing inspiration from nature to create a sophisticated building that also offers practical benefits. This approach can elevate a building's aesthetics while promoting energy efficiency.

The St. Regis
(Vista Tower)

Chicago’s third tallest building at 1,198 feet, the St. Regis is the tallest structure in the world designed by a woman. Near the Aqua Tower, the two buildings are the two tallest women-designed buildings in the world – both by Jeanne Gang.

St. Regis is designed with three interconnected towers at differing heights, creating the illusion of steps. The tower achieves an undulating silhouette through clever design. Its core is built from prefabricated pieces that resemble truncated pyramids and are alternately stacked to create a dynamic flow. The use of glass reflects light off the building and makes it seem like its surface is moving in and out of a straight plane – in other words, flowing.

Key Takeaways for Architects: The interconnection between the building's curved form and the reflective glass facade creates a captivating visual effect. Architects can explore facade design to manipulate light and create a sense of movement on a building's surface.

The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation

In 2023, Jeanne Gang's firm, Studio Gang, unveiled another innovative design with the completion of the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation. Situated at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Gilder Center is a vibrant new hub for scientific exploration.

Gang's signature biomorphic approach takes center stage here. The building's design draws inspiration from the natural world, featuring a curved facade that evokes the smooth contours of rock formations. This organic form complements the surrounding park and taps into visitors’ desires to explore and discover nature. When visitors enter the Gilder Center, they are greeted by the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploration Atrium, which brightens the entire space with natural light admitted through large-scale skylights and can contribute towards its sustainability achievements.

Key Takeaways for Architects: The Richard Gilder Center seamlessly integrates sustainable features like native landscaping and natural ventilation systems into its overall design. In addition, skylights can also play an important role in energy efficiency.

"Strategically placed venting skylights, or skylights that open, can help contribute to energy efficiency. When installed in the right space, venting skylights can provide heat during colder months and open to bring in cooler air in winter months, all while providing natural light throughout the year. Relying more on skylights for natural light and ventilation can help to rely less on central heating, air conditioning, and electric lighting, contributing to an overall greener space". - VELUX Skylights

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Alberto-g-rovi, CC BY 3.0

These innovations highlight the importance of considering sustainability from the outset with durable materials that can last a lifetime, allowing these features to become integral aesthetic and functional elements of a building.  

If you’re searching for products that have been manufactured in accordance with the appropriate performance standards and building code performance, learn more about our WDMA Hallmark Certification Program. 

Jeanne Gang’s architectural influence extends far beyond these three iconic buildings. Her dedication to innovation, sustainability and social equity has positioned her as a leading figure in contemporary architecture. As she continues to push boundaries, we can expect even more groundbreaking designs to emerge from Studio Gang in the years to come. 

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