Illinois Alumni Magazine — “Relationship Builder”

July 17, 2018

“It’s the variety of architect Jeanne Gang’s projects that makes a singular impression, from the rippling balconies of Chicago’s Aqua Tower to the Nature Boardwalk at the city’s Lincoln Park Zoo. There are boathouses along the Chicago River, a new theater in Glencoe, Ill., and a major campus complex in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Soon the Vista Tower will put her soaring stamp on the Chicago skyline. ...

It is impossible to single out a particular ‘look’ in all this work, or even a trademark style. But Gang definitely has her priorities. Whatever the project, big or small, modest or mega-buck, Gang will stress its human relevance.

‘I’m a relationship builder … Most people think architects design buildings and cities, but what we design are relationships,’ Gang declared in her 2016 TED talk. ‘Architects [need to] learn to engage the public in design. They need the engagement of people who live in cities. Cities are where people come together for all kinds of exchanges, but today,’ she cautioned, ‘our urban habitats are out of balance.’ ...

Much of Gang’s design work is aimed at restoring that balance—between people and their environment, and between people and their neighbors. Gang likes the idea of people ‘bumping into each other.’ She believes that architecture should aim to improve social relationships. ...

Gang is most attuned to the context of her work and its impact on the surrounding space, which is mostly urban. ‘We are always pushing to see how cities can incorporate advanced ideas of bio-diversity and ecosystems,’ she says. ‘We now see cities as alive and breathing. It’s what interests me about architecture—its power to explore new things about cities, people and nature.’”

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Photo: Jeff Dahlgren