Renowned American architect, Jeanne Gang, defines herself as a relationship builder. She believes that cities facilitate numerous exchanges between people. In a recent TED talk, Gang said,“I believe we can do much more than create individual buildings. We can reduce the stress and polarization in our urban habitats, create relationships, [and] we can help study this planet we all share.”
She applies findings from ecology to the study of architecture to see how physical space can help build stronger relationships. As the founder of Studio Gang, an architecture and urbanism studio in Chicago and New York, Gang has put her theory into practice throughout America. Here are three examples:
Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
Studio Gang was commissioned to create a space that helped break down barriers between different groups of people within Kalamazoo College, MI. Jeanne Gang believes that architecture creates opportunities. As such, the design for the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership aims to create an open and communal space that makes cultural exchange possible.
With over 700 apartments, the Aqua Tower is designed to encourage social connections between its residents. The balconies are positioned so people can communicate with each other from within their own space. Targeted towards empty nesters and young professionals, the undulating balconies are just one way that this building attempts to connect people.
Public architecture and civil spaces are most successful when the design comes from the ground up. As such, communication with the communities is a crucial part in creating public architecture that will be beneficial to, and accepted by, the community. Studio Gang’s brief was to change the community’s stigma towards the North Lawndale district police station. Polis Station is an ongoing project that aims to reorient police stations as civic assets. There have been many conversations with community leaders, the police and public officials, as well as round table events with students from local high schools. They have already created a basketball court that is being used by community members who previously avoided the site.