“In an age in which so much architectural form—even, sometimes, the best architectural form— has no real rationale beyond the fact that it is what the architect felt like doing, there is something admirable about the tower’s lack of arbitrariness. It reclaims the notion that thrilling and beautiful form can still emerge out of the realm of the practical.” – Paul Goldberger on Studio Gang’s Aqua Tower in The New Yorker
There are people whom you’ll always want to know more about. Certain movie stars, Freddie Mercury, and Jeanne Gang, architect. Gang is the award-winning designer behind Chicago’s 82-storey Aqua Tower, the world’s tallest skyscraper built by a woman. Prized for its exterior— wavy wraps of balconies that shade apartments, diffuse winds, and encourage birds to nest—Aqua is also covered in a sheath of modern feminine mystique, something seen in ruffles, but felt in the bones.
Organized by material instead of project, Gang pays homage to the crucial yet small pieces that lead to buildings. Through the rubble of sketches, diagrams, photographs, and free-write exercises emerges a concept. Notably, Studio Gang doesn’t design like it always has. Though the firm is 13 years old, it takes pains to start each project completely anew. The results are distinct site-specific buildings (high rises to community centers) accompanied by the strata of information collected to assemble them. With their first monograph, the secret of Studio Gang, hand written and almost discarded, is finally revealed.
“Bray (1879-1939) was an avid collector who amassed stamps, postmarks, train tickets, and girlfriends, and who, after reading the entire British Post Office Guide, impishly determined to take the rules as challenges. He tried posting an unimaginable array of things, to see whether the post office would deliver them. Apparently, at the time, the smallest item that could be posted was a bee, and the largest an elephant.”
Bray Postcard from “The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects” Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.