Jeanne Gang: Architects as relationship builders

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Martyn

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

Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Kalamazoo College, MI.

Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Kalamazoo College, MI. 2014. Image: Studio Gang

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. 

 

The interior of the Arcus Centre. Designed to bring people together with the fireplace and communal kitchen. Image: Studio Gang

Aqua Tower

Aqua Tower, Chicago, 2010.

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.

Sightlines between neighbouring terraces encourage social connections. Image: Studio Gang

 

A large-scale spiral staircase seamlessly connects the tower and public park below.
Image: Studio Gang

 

Polis Station

Polis Station explores how stations can become full-service community centers. Image: Studio Gang

 

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.

 

Basketball courts created at the Police Station are helping to change the stigma previously attached to this site. Image: Studio Gang

 

Polis Station is an on-going project that relies upon the community’s help to re-imagine their police station as a beneficial asset.

 

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