Thursday, November 3, 2011

Artistic + Good in Math / Jeanne Gang visits Georgia Tech

How is one chosen to design an 82 story building with 1,900,000 square feet of floor space costing $475,000,000 in Chicago?

Chicago (ILL) Downtown, Lakeshore East : " Aqua " Jeanne Gang 2009
Aqua Tower Photo: Vincent Desjardins
Design architecture firm: Studio Gang Architects
Architect of record: Loewenberg & Associates

I planned to ask Jeanne myself when she spoke at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.

This is Jeanne Gang doing Q&A after the lecture. (Jeanne = "Gee-Knee") She's principal & founder of Studio Gang in Chicago. She's a 2011 MacArthur Fellow.

Her firm collaborated on the design of the Aqua Tower. The media credits her.

The College of Architecture brings in international design talent to speak with design students who, like Jeanne, are artistic and good at math. I go to these when I can, I was good in math but...

Fish, Sticks, Birds and Bricks? What about world class skyscrapers?

These are easygoing affairs. Nobody dresses. You need to look like a student or a professor, recent haircut not required. These are at dinner time. For most Tech students it's about 2/3 of the way through a long day.

The "ready to pull a 2nd all-nighter" look is always fashionable in the architecture building.


This is the book cover for Reveal.

Jeanne Gang avoided personal credit for everything. She spoke softly with a warm smile. The passions were in there though, clearly in there. She has a powerful motor running inside.

In an early slide she answered a question nobody would ask about the composition of a female led firm. She said she liked the texture.

The delight of these lectures is the architect's own delight, the unexpected twists and turns.

In this case the issue was how to get a building permit for a brick lattice: a design, engineering, craft, bureaucratic, and political problem.

How do you build with several varieties of donated concrete? It's takes design and calculation.

How do you keep fish alive in Lincoln Park Zoo? How you do prevent birds from smashing into buildings in the Chicago flyway? How do you reverse the Chicago River. How do you revive Cicero?

These are the kind of problems architects attack these days.

Jeanne said that learning architecture is hard enough for artistic students who are good in math. But projects are more challenging than ever. Architects have to engage and excite people across the spectrum.

Finally the skyscraper: she answered my Aqua Tower question before I asked:
The developer wanted somebody who hadn't done a skyscraper, they wanted something different.
We'll have to go see for ourselves.

Just a few forehead slaps from her slides:

Skyscraper skeptics must deal with this argument.

During construction skyscraper climbers sent a picture from the top. Jeanne said they didn't know how they got up there, maybe they climbed up and over on a crane. I'm having bad dreams over this.

Ms. Gang emphasized unexpected vistas that thrill.

Unexpected (to me) diagonal views link people on different floors. You can't people-watch your own building in most skyscrapers.

Thanks to Jeanne Gang and the Georgia Tech College of Architecture. I was fortunate to be there; happy to have captured a few drops from flood

I made some notes.

I followed up on Bruce Mau Design, the firm that built the Studio Gang website. It led me to the "Incomplete Manifesto for Growth" which I'd heard of but otherwise had no clue. Epigrammatic fun.
9: Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

21: Repeat yourself.
If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.


  1. I am so deeply impressed. The developer wanting someone who hadn't done a skyscraper? What a leap of faith, it is soooo amazing. I can't possibly imagine how fabulous it would be to have that opportunity.

  2. Sounds like a very cool lecture. As usual, your account of an event is equally as interesting! How do you hear about them? I'm trying to find ways to connect with Atlanta's universities because I think they give so much life and talent to the city.

  3. I'm with you Ciambellina, so much goes on at our many colleges, so much.

  4. Great post about an inspiring woman. Keep up the good work.


Blog Archive