Chicago skyscraper architect gets Genius Grant

September 20, 2011 4:26:46 PM PDT
Chicago architect Jeanne Gang will get $500,000 with no strings attached for being selected for a John D. MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

Gang's work is on display all over town. It includes the new Columbia College at 18th and State Street and the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, a stagnant pond that became Chicago's motto, "a city in a garden." Gang's most famous work is the "Aqua" high-rise on Columbus just south of the River. The building is 86 stories of curves, waves and creativity. It's an absolute original.

"The whole idea was to make it interesting. Make it inhabitable and people can actually be on the outside of the building but yet when you walk by as a pedestrian you see something really three dimensional," Gang said.

Gang is founder of Studio Gang on North Ashland. The group's specialty is designing buildings that fill the senses. She is one of 22 recipients of the MacArthur $500,000 grants which will be used to fund future creative projects. She's been an architect since she was a kid, beginning with crayons and paper.

"After I drew on it I probably took it and folded it up and created a building out of it. Ah, three dimensional. You know I was always making things out of paper, cardboard," Gang said.

Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper. Over the years, they've been built big, tall and strong. And now along comes Aqua, a Gang creation. It's big, tall and strong -- but maybe also a bit feminine.

"It's big and strong. It's a high-rise. But it does have an organic and more complex flair to it. So maybe it has a bit of femininity in it too," Gang said.

Gang, 47, is receiving raves from around the world. And she says Aqua is just the beginning.

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