Studio Gang has been hired to reimagine a stalled mixed-use high-rise in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Having languishing through the recession and without financing, the development called CentrePointe may now gain momentum thanks to the fresh eye of the Chicago-based firm responsible for the much-praised Aqua Tower. Jeanne Gang, principal, told AN her office will be preparing several concept plans over the next six weeks demonstrating new design strategies that could guide the future project and attract new tenants and financing. The proposed $200 million tower has been scaled back since it was first proposed several years ago. Current plans call for a 25-story tower with a mix of residential, commercial, retail, and hotel space. Studio Gang will be presenting several scenarios to keep the mix of uses while better integrating the design into the community and attracting future buyers. "There's a definite urban design component," explained Jeanne Gang. She said Lexington can sometimes feel like a commuter city. "We want to get people out of their cars." Beyond making the city more pedestrian friendly, Gang expects to develop strategies to mediate the varying scales surrounding the full-block site. One side of the block offers two- and three-story historic structures while another features larger office towers. Developers drew the ire of the community by razing the block, which once housed small-scale historic buildings. Now that the damage is done, however, the city and developers hope to move forward with a rejuvenated plan. "The site is literally a tabula rasa," joked Gang. "It's sitting there waiting for something good to happen." Gang visited the site several times in March to evaluate site conditions. Her firm is already familiar with Lexington, however. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Studio Gang proposed a new Lexington city hall and has been retained to develop a master plan for the University of Kentucky's College of Design. "The area has good bones," said Gang. "There are some really nice historic buildings and two colleges nearby. There's also a very active convention center and basketball arena." She has also drawn inspiration from the horse farms and their prototypical wooden fences surrounding the city. For the time being, the CentrePointe site, now covered in bluegrass, is also surrounded by a similar split-rail wooden fence.
Posts tagged with "Studio Gang":
Green Boom. Blair Kamin takes a look at the sustainability of two billowing icons in Chicago and New York. Studio Gang's Aqua Tower is going for LEED certification while Frank Gehry's New York tower will not seek the USGBC's approval but claims to be green nonetheless. Kamin notes the importance of such moves, saying of Gehry: "What he, in particular, does--or doesn't do--can have enormous influence, not simply on architects but on developers." Trolley Boom. NPR has a piece on the explosion of streetcars across the country with planned or completed systems in over a dozen cities. Bike Boom. Cycling advocate Elly Blue discusses a new study on Grist stating that bikes deserve their own infrastructure independent from autos. And not just a striped bike lane, Blue notes, but separated lanes called "cycle tracks" like one installed along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West. Soane Boom. The Independent reports on a planned renovation to the Sir John Soane Museum in London, that architect's treasure trove of antiquities and architectural memorabilia from across the world. Plans include opening up a new floor that hasn't been open to the public since Soane died in 1837.
The undulating balconies of Aqua have become one of the most recognized and talked about additions to the Chicago skyline. Less attention has been paid to the handsome townhouses, called "Parkhomes," in the building's base. Magellan, the developers, are trying to right that balance and drum up interest amid the still sluggish downtown condo market by enlisting Studio Gang to fit out the interior of one of the units. The six 3,200 square foot Parkhomes, have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a two car garage, a rarity for condos in the immediate vicinity of the central business district. Gang worked with the Brazilian company Florense to furnish the apartments. Works by local artists hang on the walls (available for purchase, naturally). The units, priced from $1.6 million, face Lakeshore East Park, and have access to all of Aqua's amenities, including the 80,000 square foot roof deck.
DANCING WITH STARCHITECTS Eavesdrop got all flustered when the Chicago Dancing Festival, an annual event celebrating American dance, announced the theme for its August 27 event: “The Dancing Skyline.” Could this be like Dancing with the Stars or a Pilobolus-like pile of dancers recreating buildings from Chicago’s iconic skyline? Probably neither, as the festival’s website simply describes it as “a lecture and demonstration focused on themes of architecture and dance.” Still, we would have paid good money to see Jeanne Gang paired with the likes of Jay Franke of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company prancing off against Helmut Jahn and Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet. A gossip columnist can dream! CURATOR SHUFFLE Ever since AN broke the news that Joseph Rosa is leaving the Art Institute’s architecture and design department to direct the University of Michigan Art Museum, speculation has abounded about who will replace him. The AIC says design curator Zoe Ryan is in the running, but Eavesdrop guesses she’s pretty happy building the museum’s new design collection. Others have pointed to Brooke Hodge, previously of LA MOCA, but might her interests overlap too much with Ryan’s? Oh, and another Ryan, first name Raymund, the architecture curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, could well be in the running. Then there’s John Zukowsky, the former AIC curator, who is conveniently back in town. Seems unlikely. What about Elizabeth Smith, the former chief curator at the MCA? She’s had a longstanding interest in architecture and wrote a wonderful and much lusted after book on the Case Study Houses. Eavesdrop hears that Trustee John H. Bryan, who endowed the chair, holds the key to the kingdom. Send season tickets, croquet wickets, and rusty spigots to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the heels of their much praised Aqua tower, Studio Gang is talking on a very different kind of project, the renovation and conversion of the historic Shoreland Hotel in Hyde Park into rental apartments, and retail and event spaces, the Chicago Tribune reports. The building, which was most recently used as student housing by the University of Chicago, is in rough shape. Some of the once opulent interiors are in tact, but other spaces have been gutted or badly damaged, which could offer interesting opportunities to juxtapose contemporary insertions with historic elements. The project adds adaptive reuse and historic preservation to the firm’s already diverse portfolio. If the project is successful, perhaps it will help breathe life into the firm's other major Hyde Park project, Solstice on the Park, which has been languishing on the boards.
Last Friday’s ribbon-cutting festivities marking the opening of Columbia College’s 35,500 square foot, $21 million Media Production Center (MPC) in Chicago’s South Loop featured retired anchorman/documentarian/pitchman Bill Kurtis emceeing a ceremony in the building’s large soundstage that included remarks by Mayor Richard Daley and a slew of college officials and donors, all extolling the virtues of the first new building in the school’s 120 years of operation. Columbia claims to have the nation’s largest film and video school, and refers to the MPC as a “state of the art facility designed to foster cross disciplinary collaboration among students in film, television, interactive arts and media and television.” While offering heaping doses of the boastful puffery you might expect at such an event, the speakers also seemed to spend a lot of time archly addressing an imagined audience in the year 2040. The proceedings were recorded, to be placed in a time capsule that would be opened in 30 years for the school’s sesquicentennial. Maybe that’s why a number of those listed on the agenda as presenters seemed to have been cut, including architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang who designed the engaging new building. But you’d have to be comatose to overlook the designer’s role in making this an occasion that merited preservation for future generations. Gang says she was inspired by the aesthetics of filmmaking in conceiving the MPC design. Her approach is apparent in ways both obvious, as in the colored-panels on the exterior alluding to a standard graphic test-pattern, and subtle: the configuration of the building’s primary circulation artery as a “main street” that deliberately manipulates the viewer’s perspective as a movie camera might. “We tried to connect spaces through light, framing views in ways similar to how cinematic space is constructed,” she told AN. It’s hard to see how 2010 could get much better for Jeanne Gang. Her boldly innovative, delicately sculptural Aqua tower--completed late last year--may have had its development woes (a planned hotel operator dropped out mid-construction), but is a hugely popular success for its dynamic contribution to the skyline. Her firm’s planned renovation of Lincoln Park’s South Pond environment should be completed this summer and she says construction should begin on her long anticipated Ford Calumet Environmental Center later this year. She’s been suitably lionized in the media, as one of the New York Times T magazine’s “Nifty Fifty” people to watch, and with the journalistic equivalent of a warm hug from Paul Goldberger in a flattering New Yorker profile in January. But the modest, sincere Gang just wants you to focus on the design. She says Columbia “knew there were things important to the architecture that couldn’t be eliminated in favor of the technological functions,” which allowed for such grand gestures as the entrance lobby/gathering space, with its movie theater-style oversized stadium seating and 11 by 13 foot LED screen. It’s hard to know what audiences in 2040 will think of the recorded proceedings. It’s a likelier bet that 30 years from now, Studio Gang’s MPC design will still feel significant, even as the technology of filmmaking -- and architecture -- zooms on.
With project's like the Gary Comer Youth Center, designed by John Ronan Architects, and the SOS Children's Villages by Studio Gang, Chicago's South Side has some of the most exciting non-profit institutional architecture in the country. Chicago Magazine takes an in-depth look at one project that has had a decidely bumpier ride, the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, once planned for Bronzeville in an Antoine Predock-designed building, now destined for West Pullman in a less ambitious piece of architecture designed by Antunovich Associates (above). The piece lays out in detail how in 2004 the project was scuttled when then Alderman Dorothy Tillman vetoed the project, saying she wanted a shopping center on the site. The project was then relocated to West Pullman, with a slightly less expensive design by Murphy/Jahn. When that design proved too expensive, the client, the Salvation Army, looked at four Chicago firms, not named in the piece, and ultimately chose Antunovich. Even with the more modest design, the project boasts a number of green amenities, including a green roof and solar panels. Ronan and Gang have shown you can get great design on a tight budget. Even if the Kroc Center won't be a destination for architecture buffs, the project will improve the quality of life for young people in the neighborhood. Construction on the center is expected to begin in the next few months.
Big. Bold. Visionary: Chicago Considers the Next Century, another event commemorating the Burnham Plan Centennial, taps local architects, planners, and landscape architects to envision the ideal Windy City of the future. Some designers took a creative and sometimes whimsical approach, while others offered up more practical concepts. Filter out the public relations boosterism and the show offers plenty of inspiring ideas to further Burnham’s goal of creating a beautiful lakefront accessible at all points north and south. On the far south side of the city, Phillip Enquist of SOM envisions a high-density mixed-use development at the 573-acre site of a former steel manufacturer. The surrounding neighborhoods, many of which are economically depressed, could benefit from Linda Searl’s temporary three-year functional structures, designed as infill for empty lots. The infill structures would act as a catalyst for commerce, development, and to improve the overall quality of life of the neighborhood. Other proposals took the title of the show to heart: big and bold. Adrian Smith’s two mile-long eco bridge would arch out into the lake from Monroe Harbor, the center of which would stand a tall tower to harvest wind and solar energy. Others inspired strong reactions, like the Jeanne Gang’s shudder-inducing eco-casino or Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will’s international airport developed in Lake Michigan at the terminus of Congress Parkway. The show, while not as flashy as the Centennial’s other events, is no less important. Building on the legacy of Burnham, it will help facilitate conversations about future planning and showcase the city's current design talent. Big. Bold. Visionary: Chicago Considers the Next Century is at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery, 72 E. Randolph St. through October 4.