WADe India is glad to present this heart-warming episode of TED Talk by world-famous woman architect Jeanne Gang known for quirky designs like, Aqua, the residential skyscraper. In the video she said, “Through architecture, we can do much more than create buildings. We can help steady this planet we all share.” She takes her a journey to her projects – large and small – and how all of them enable relationship building and social connectivity in a world so urban and divided.
So, taking a cue from nature and ecology, she gave rise to an architecture that may be not spatially connected, but does socially. Aqua, the 82-story residential hi-rise in Chicago meant to accommodate young professionals to the city has its outer balconies designed in a way that it channels both a conversation and wind flow. “With over 700 apartments, through this building we wanted to know if we could use the architecture to help people get to know their neighbors. We invented a new way to balconies as the social connectors,” reveals Gang. In actuality, the shapes of the edges of the balconies vary slightly and the transition as you go up the tower, and the result is you can see people from your balcony and probably start a conversation.
“Engaging public in the architecture can be intimidating. This may be because, in the architecture school, we don’t learn how to engage the public in the active design, we’re taught to defend our designs against criticism, but I think that can change.” – Ar. Jeanne Gang
In another project of Gang, she was asked to design Arcus: Center for Social Justice Leadership in a way that it breaks traditional barriers between different groups and allow the possibilities of meaningful conversations around social justice. After a lot of research on natural and urban communities, Gang and her team decided to design a meeting place right at the center of the Arcus centre and anchored it with a fireplace and kitchen. Now the people could see each other’s faces and indulge into the conversation whilst enjoying the warmth and food. Now the place works best for social gatherings as well as one-on-one interactions – building relationships all the way!
Creating socially-inclined architecture is public and civic places seems hard to Gang team. They however decided to give a shot to it. In North Lawndale (US), there was a police station which was perceived as a scary fortress by the residents. People were afraid of the police and were going anywhere but near the police station, even to report a crime. Gang started right from the name and changed the Police Station into a “Polish Station” (Polish in Greek means a place with a sense of community). What next, they turned the entire place into more or less a community by opening a barber shop, sports complex and coffee shop on the public side of the station that gave rise to more interaction opportunities between the police and well as the community members. Guess what, the police officers and children of the common people now take part in occasional tournaments together! “Engaging public in the architecture can be intimidating. This may be because, in the architecture school, we don’t learn how to engage the public in the active design, we’re taught to defend our designs against criticism, but I think that can change,” Gang says leaving a hope.
About Jeanne Gang
American architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, FAIA, is the founding principal of Studio Gang. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, Jeanne is internationally renowned for a design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities, and environments. Her diverse body of work spans scales and typologies, expanding beyond architecture’s conventional boundaries to pursuits ranging from the development of stronger materials to fostering stronger communities. Her approach has resulted in some of today’s most compelling architecture, including Aqua Tower, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and Writers Theatre. She is currently designing major projects throughout the Americas and Europe, including the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York; a unified campus for the California College of the Arts in San Francisco; and the new United States Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil.
A recipient of the 2013 National Design Award (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum), Jeanne was named the 2016 Architect of the Year by the Architectural Review. In 2017, she was honored with the Louis I. Kahn Memorial Award and a Fellowship from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Widely published and acclaimed, her work has been exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Chicago Architecture Biennial, Museum of Modern Art, and Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of Reveal, the first volume on Studio Gang’s work and process, and Reverse Effect: Renewing Chicago’s Waterways, which envisions a radically greener future for the Chicago River.
A distinguished alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Jeanne has taught architecture at the graduate level, most recently as the John Portman Design Critic at the Harvard GSD, where her studio explored the multivalent potential of materiality. She lectures frequently throughout the world and serves on various civic and design-focused committees and advisory groups.
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