Gang is best known for combining elements of ecological systems into her designs—from the 82-story Aqua Tower (2010) in downtown Chicago, which resembles a landscape of hills and valleys; to the Ford Calumet Environmental Center (2008), which used the nest-making process of birds for inspiration.
“I’ve always been sensitive to materials in architecture, seeing the choice of them and the deployment of them on equal footing with the building’s function, its form, its technologies,” Gang added. “The issue of where materials come from, the resources they consume, where they end up, and the way they make people feel, are all central to my thoughts about architecture.”
In three talks entitled “Mining the City,” Gang will explore various elements of the built environment. She framed the first discussion around the ubiquitous three Rs of environmentalism—reduce, reuse, recycle—as starting points for “reusing physical resources rather than starting from complete scratch.”
In a wide-ranging discussion, Gang explored architecture and design from the growth of mass consumerism by the American public in the post-war 1950s, up to modern innovations for making better use of space through concepts like tiny houses and micro apartments.
Gang shared concepts for current and past projects, including the conversion of a former coal-burning power plant into a modern student union at Beloit College, to a network of flexible live-and-work units in the former factory town of suburban Cicero.
Pioneering architectural vision
Gang was introduced to a crowd April 10 by Christine Mehring, chair of the Department of Art History at UChicago, who recognized Gang as one of a handful of successful female architects in the history of architecture. Mehring praised Gang’s efforts to bring more diverse perspectives to the profession during a celebrated career.
“In little over a decade, Jeanne has built an international reputation for advancing and intertwining the social, elemental and formal possibilities of architecture and design in the 21st century,” Mehring said.