"We were outraged by what we saw—by the violence in everyday life," said Jeanne Gang when asked about the impetuous behind her firm's project Polis Project, a proposed reinvention of the typical police station on view at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The work, like any number of projects in the exhibition, highlights the what curator Joseph Grima calls “architectural agency,” where firms take on projects not for a client, but out of a sense of urgency to architecturally address important issues. Sparked by incidents of police violence against African Americans across the United States and supported by the May 2015 Obama administration policy brief: the “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” Studio Gang’s research and design proposal flanks the two sides of the Center’s grand stair. One side displays a history of law enforcement architectures—from the neighborhood police box to today’s bunker-like stations—and the other a design proposal for Chicago’s 10th District Station in Lawndale. “We asked ourselves “What is a police station in the 21st Century?”” she noted, pointing out that while past incarnations were community-based as police officers moved out of the neighborhoods where they had a beat, the tensions between locals and officers increased. The architecture of reflected that conflict. “The police station doesn’t carry the same ideas of democracy as a court house,” she noted, but by imbuing these values into the station building, Studio Gang hopes to point a way forward to a new idea of architecture. "Everyone comes though the same front door," Gang said, and explained how the building is more like a community center than a jail. Little things, like free Wi-Fi, and big things, like mental health services, computer labs, park space and retrofitted housing for officers in the neighborhoods, are meant to break down the barriers between the police and residents. Work is already underway. A police-owned parking lot is being transformed into a new park and basketball courts that is meant to be a shared, non-confrontational space in the neighborhood. “This community will have a safe place to play.”
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If you start at Studio Gang’s acclaimed Aqua Tower and follow the Chicago River about six miles north you will find yourself at another eye-catching building by the increasingly in-demand firm. The WMS Boathouse at Clark Park, completed in 2013, sits along the very polluted north branch of the river and has a dramatic profile inspired by the rhythm of rowers’ oars. (The building is named for the gaming technology company that contributed to the project and has offices directly across the river.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJsaAPfZX50&feature=youtu.be The boathouse is one of four commissioned by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help draw people toward—and hopefully onto—the city’s industrial and neglected waterways, which he calls Chicago’s “next recreational frontier.” The idea is that if Chicagoans come to see the rivers as an urban asset it will create momentum to get them cleaned up. And any environmental revitalization would go hand-in-hand with economic revitalization, especially outside of the city's core where the first phase of the Riverwalk opened this summer. Studio Gang—which designed two of the structures, the second of which recently broke ground on Chicago’s south side—was an obvious choice for Emanuel’s bold river vision. In 2011, the firm, working with the Natural Resource Defense Council and students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, published Reverse Effect—a 116-page book that lays out the waterways’ history and proposes innovative ways to renew them. (The Chicago-based Johnson & Lee oversaw the other pair of boathouses.) The Architect’s Newspaper recently visited the WMS Boathouse with Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang, and went kayaking with her to talk about the boathouse, the river, and how her firm plans to continue producing unique architecture as its influence expands around the Midwest and beyond.
New York has one, Chicago has one, and now the Chronicle’s John King alerts us that San Francisco might see a Trump-brand tower in its future. No one is taking bets on the conservative presidential candidate’s name emblazoned on a highrise located in one the most progressive cities on the planet, but King is stirring the pot to call attention to a land auction hosted by Transbay Joint Powers Authority on September 2. On the docket: a parcel of land on the 500 block of Howard Street, where zoning allows for an 800-foot tower. Five development teams will bid against each other. According to King, “[I]dentities are being kept secret until the live auction to, in the words of bureaucrats, 'preserve the integrity of the competition.'” Will Trump be one? The Chron’s critic is wagering a guess, suggesting that with minimum bid at $160 million, the live auction could set off a bidding war that would help pay for the Transbay Transit Center. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the center expected to serve eleven different transportation systems and feature a rooftop park. The tower on the offer would join others in San Francisco's Transbay district by Studio Gang, OMA, SOM, and Foster and Partners. Gang’s undulating 40-story tower recently came under fire for its soaring height, which community activists protested would cast a shadow over the public Rincon Park on the Embarcadero waterfront. King’s argument, however, is not that Trump will soon be mixing it up in the town of Milk and Moscone (or the new SF: Twitter and Uber) but that design is pushed off the table for the sake of raising cash. In 2007, the city held a design competition for the transit center and neighboring tower. This auction comes with no design strings attached. “Standards are slipping,” he wrote and continued: “If the check clears, good enough. Let the city’s Planning Department sort through messy questions about how the tower looks or whether the developer will try to push for extra space.”
Hot Tub Design Machine: New York's Van Alen Institute launches its annual auction of out-of-the-box architectural experiences
If you have ever longed to explore nature with your favorite architect or discuss the built environment in your bikini, now you'll have the chance. Well, for a few bucks, but in the good name of architecture. The Van Alen Institute has launched its online auction of Art + Design Experiences to coincide with its Spring Party, going down this Wednesday in Lower Manhattan. The auction list boasts exclusive and out-of-the-box experiences with top critics, famed architects, and professionals in the arts and design fields. Some of the more compelling items, or activities, to bid on, include: —A Fire Island hot tub roundtable with architect Charles Renfro at his mid-century modern beach house. —Testing the smoke ring generator at Copenhagen’s new waste-to-energy power plant with Bjarke Ingels. —A helicopter ride on Norman Foster's personal helicopter through London’s skyline, including the architect’s own icons. —A bird watching expedition in an iconic urban park with Jeanne Gang. —Joining Sotheby’s chairman Lisa Dennison for her daily salon blowout ritual as she offers tips on building a blue-chip art collection, followed by a personalized tour of MoMA's permanent holdings. Visit the auction site to check out and bid on the offerings. Bidding closes on Wednesday, May 20. Get your digital paddles ready.
Preservationists watchful as New York's American Museum of Natural History taps Jeanne Gang for addition
Last year, Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects opened a New York office, and now it is clear they made a smart decision in doing so: the firm has been selected to design a six story addition to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The current museum complex is an eclectic jumble of architecture styles, and it's most recent addition is the Rose Center for Earth and Space by the Polshek Partnership (now Ennead). The project is likely to be controversial, as it will encroach on Theodore Roosevelt Park, a small neighborhood park immediately adjacent to Central Park. Preservationists and neighborhood advocates are watching the project closely. "Because the 'plans' announced by the American Museum of Natural History are long on laudatory sounding goals but short on details, Landmark West! (LW) is in a wait and see mode regarding the expansion plan. Once the full details of the plans are known, LW will carefully review them and formulate a response. However, the AMNH's publicly stated intention of encroaching on the surrounding park land is of serious concern to LW. We would prefer that the AMNH use the park land to further the study of natural history and redouble its commitment to conserve it," wrote Arlene Simon, the president of the board of Landmark West!, in an email to AN.
Studio Gang Architects' Arcus Center at Kalamazoo College in Michigan broke ground in 2012. Now photos of this sylvan study space are available, following its September opening. And they don't disappoint. The 10,000-square-foot building is targeting LEED Gold. Gang's press release said the new social justice center, a trifurcated volume terminating in large transparent window-walls, “brings together students, faculty, visiting scholars, social justice leaders, and members of the public for conversation and activities aimed at creating a more just world.” The open interior spaces are connected with long sight lines and awash in natural light—a cozy condition Studio Gang says will break down barriers and help visitors convene. The building's concave exterior walls are made of a unique wood-masonry composite that its designers say will sequester carbon. It also, says a release, “challenges the Georgian brick language and plantation-style architecture of the campus’s existing buildings.”
At Design Miami, Chicago-based architect Jeanne Gang has teamed up with nature photographer James Balog on an installation called Thinning Ice. Produced for the haute crystal manufacturer Swarovski, the walls of the enclosure comprise a seventy-foot-long LCD screen that displays Balog's documentary images of the Solheimajokull glacier in Austria. The interior of the space is populated with abstracted ice floes: tall tables that are pocked with amorphic depressions representing the random patterns creating by thawing ice and meltwater. At the bottom of these holes are collections of strategically-lit crystals; in varying sizes and colors, both perfectly faceted and imperfectly formed, they are objects of contemplation. The aluminum floor of the pavilion is split, the crack again filled with crystals. An architectural musing on the degrading polar environment, the piece itself is evanescent—it's in place just for the duration of the art fair, which runs from December 3 through December 7.
With Jeanne Gang bringing her architectural brand to so many cities across the country, it was only a matter of time until she landed in Miami. Local real estate blog ExMiami was the first to uncover the architect’s plan for the city, which calls for a 14-story condo project in the Design District. Like her much-celebrated Aqua Tower in Chicago, the Sweetbird South Residences has an idiosyncratic facade made of what appears to be glass and concrete. Through unique floor plates and carved, zigzagging columns, Gang creates deep, recessed balconies and a highly textured exterior. As the tower rises, the distance between floor plates becomes more pronounced, which offers generous ceiling heights for the upper-apartments.
The Chicago Parks District has picked hometown architectural hero Jeanne "MacArthur Genius" Gang for yet another lakefront project. The Chicago Tribune reported that the celebrated architect will draw-up a "long-range plan" for the city's Museum Campus where George Lucas' museum could soon rise. Besides her Chicago-roots, and global starpower, Gang is the obvious choice for this project. She is currently overseeing the landscape design for Lucas' museum and is creating a pedestrian bridge that will connect it with Northerly Island, which Gang is currently turning into a 91-acre public park and nature reserve. The focus of the campus plan, reported the Tribune, will be sustainability, education, recreation, access, and improving transportation around Chicago landmarks, including the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and the Adler Planetarium. There is currently no timeline for the master plan.
MAD Architects, the Chinese designers known for their organically curving buildings from Inner Mongolia to Canada, will work with two local firms—including Studio Gang Architects—to bring filmmaker George Lucas’ new Chicago museum to life. MAD will design the building, while Studio Gang Architects will provide landscape work—an integral part of the lakefront site—and VOA Associates will be the architect of record, said officials for the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Monday. The Chicago Tribune first reported the story, with Blair Kamin calling "the star-studded team … a surprise given Lucas' penchant for traditional designs." Many also called Lucas' choice of Chicago for the museum, over other West Coast options, surprising. The Star Wars creator’s museum is currently targeting a lakefront site between Soldier Field and the McCormick Place convention center. It would take the place of two surface parking lots, replacing those spots and then some with parking below grade. But that proposal is currently facing a challenge from lakefront advocates, who point to a city ordinance forbidding private development east of Lake Shore Drive. Their qualm may carry legal weight if Lucas doesn’t hand over the museum, in which he is expected to pour $700 million of his money, to the city’s park district upon completion. At any rate, the involvement of MAD’s Ma Yansong and Studio Gang's Jeanne Gang is likely to produce memorable architecture for the new museum, which will house movie memorabilia and selections from Lucas’ extensive art collection. Yansong’s work includes the Ordos Museum, an otherworldly blob in the deserts of Inner Mongolia, and Ontario’s Absolute Towers—sculptural, round apartment towers that have been dubbed the "Marilyn Monroe Towers" after the curvaceous actress. That style seems in keeping with Gang’s own tastes, which tend toward organic forms and eye-grabbing designs. VOA has designed offices for Ariel Investments, a company led by Lucas’ wife Mellody Hobson. Lucas has also pledged to help fund an $18 million pedestrian bridge at 35th Street to improve access to the site. The museum is expected to open in 2018.
We've known for some time that Chicago architect and certified genius Jeanne Gang has been planning a residential tower for San Francisco's Transbay District, south of Market Street. Now we know what it will look like. Gang and developer Tishman Speyer have revealed renderings of a 400-foot-tall, 40-story building clad in masonry tiles at 160 Folsom Street. Units would contain large bay windows, a staple in the Bay Area. But the bays will jut out at sharp angles and change configuration as the building rises, creating what appears to be a twisting tower profile. "What I like about tall buildings is what you do with the height, the incremental moves along the way," Gang told San Francisco Chronicle critic John King. Studio Gang and Tishman Speyer both told AN that Gang could not comment at this point in the process. Thanks to a deal with local officials in which the building was granted another hundred feet of height, the development, located about a block from the Embarcadero, will—if approved—contain about 35 percent affordable housing. That's the same figure the overpriced city is hoping to achieve for future developments. Currently all projects in San Francisco are required to set aside about about 12 percent of their units as affordable, lest they pay a fee. The Transbay District, anchored by Pelli Clarke Pelli's Transbay Center, is now set to contain new buildings by Studio Gang, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Renzo Piano, and OMA, a remarkable conglomeration for an area that just a decade ago was a relative afterthought. Overall the district is set to contain more than six million square feet of new office space, nearly 4,400 new housing units, and about 100,000 square feet of new retail space, according to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the nonprofit arbiter on tall building design, has named its 2014 picks for best tall buildings. Among the winners are a twisting tower in Dubai, Portland's greenest retrofit, and a veritable jungle of a high-rise. The four regional winners are: The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, Portland, USA (Americas); One Central Park, Sydney, Australia (Asia & Australia); De Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands (Europe); and Cayan Tower, Dubai, UAE (Middle East & Africa). Portland’s Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building is not a new building. Designed by SOM in 1974, the office tower used a pre-cast concrete façade that had begun to fail by the turn of the 21st century. Bainbridge Island, Washington-based Cutler Anderson Architects and local firm SERA modernized the 18-story, 512,474 square-foot structure that is now targeting LEED Platinum. One Central Park in Sydney uses hydroponics and heliostats to cultivate gardens and green walls throughout the tower, cooling the building and creating the world's tallest vertical garden. OMA’s De Rotterdam is the largest building in the Netherlands, and its form playfully morphs the glassy midcentury office high-rise in a way that’s part homage and part experimental deconstruction. In the Middle East, Dubai’s twisting Cayan Tower (formerly The Infinity Tower) is a 75-story luxury apartment building that turns 90 degrees over its 997-foot ascent. Remarked the CTBUH panel: “happening upon its dancing form in the skyline is like encountering a hula-hooper on a train full of gray flannel suits.” CTBUH will pick an overall “Best Tall Building Worldwide” winner at their 13th Annual Awards on November 6, at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Their panel of judges includes Jeanne Gang, OMA’s David Gianotten, Laing O’Rourke’s David Scott, and Sir Terry Farrell, among others. OMA’s CCTV Tower in Beijing won last year’s competition. Most of the 88 contest entries were from Asia, CTBUH said, continuing that continent’s dominance of global supertall building construction. CTBUH's international conference will take place in Shanghai in September. You can find more about the 2014 CTBUH awards, including a full list of finalists, at their website.