Studio Gang has long partnered with nonprofits and community groups to realize their unconventional designs. For her recent Harvard GSD studio, principal Jeanne Gang partnered with one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to tackle an issue with repercussions across the northern Midwest: separating the South Branch of Chicago River to prevent invasive Asian carp from decimating the Great Lakes.
“NRDC told us they were tired of just being against things,” Gang said, in a recent talk at Cooper Union in New York. “They want to be for things.” Gang and her GSD studio investigated the possibilities of returning the river to its natural course, the findings of which have been compiled into a book called Reverse Effect: Renewing Chicago’s Waterways (available from Amazon’s and Studio Gang’s website beginning November 7).
With images as compelling as the one above, it’s easy to see why NRDC thinks partnering with designers is a smart advocacy strategy. For Gang and her students, a region-wide threat called for neighborhood-scale intervention. Such strategic thinking makes architects central players in addressing urgent societal and ecological problems. It never hurts to be essential.
A reception for the book will take place tomorrow night at Architectural Artifacts, 4325 North Ravenswood Avenue, Chicago.