In this hopeful era of returning the raw and wild to our cities, Chicago-based architect Jeanne Gang is a force of nature.
Gang’s rapid rise on the city’s toughened glass-and-steel skyline began in 2010, with the 82-story high-rise Aqua, a white, rippling form referencing water’s gentle waves. Although the Windy City had been making advances in greening and the word "sustainability" was becoming part of the local lexicon, the structure -- the tallest built building designed by a woman -- altered the skyline in more ways than one.
Aqua suddenly stood graceful against a mostly glass-and-steel cityscape. The skyscraper was born here, after all. But that white, undulating structure seemed to open the possibility of letting the outdoors into the city, throwing open a window, letting a fresh breeze carve its way through the hardened urban canyons. And since Aqua went up, Gang has opened that window further, with numerous structures and park spaces in and around the city, and farther afield.
A native of rural Belvidere, Ill., Gang now has projects worldwide, including Solar Carve Tower, a tower above New York City’s High Line park, based on the relationship of the sun’s path and the building. She’s designed, among many things, structures of reused steel that resemble a tortoise shell and bird’s nests, and a roof on an outdoor theater that opens like flower petals to reveal the sky overhead. Supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision to make the Chicago River the city’s new recreational frontier, Gang has designed two new boathouses along its banks; both will open later this summer.