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Jeanne Gang

Jeanne Gang

Founding Principal and Partner
Studio Gang Architects
“Three Points of the Residential High-Rise: Designing for Social Connectivity”

Session Summary

The skyscraper boom that has swept New York in recent years has not been exclusively limited to the Big Apple. This session looked at developments outside New York, using examples in Chicago and Mexico City as a counterpoint to the discussion regarding tall building development in the Americas. Presentations explored efforts to improve the social aspect of tall building designs, the development of Grade A office space in Mexico City, and the long-awaited redesign of OneEleven in Chicago.

Jeanne Gang, Founder and Principal, Studio Gang Architects, discussed the unique set of challenges that high-rise residential buildings present in becoming fully activated urban participants in their host cities. Critics have posited that tall buildings are insular and foreboding by their very nature. However, as all cities become taller and denser, the need to design social space in, on, and around tall buildings must be continually examined to support a cohesive urban fabric. Ms. Gang offered up three potential strategies for creating more socially connective tall buildings – “exo-spatial design,” “solar carving,” and “bridging” – and examples of each solution.

Tom Wilcock, Associate, Arup, illuminated the particular challenges of constructing tall buildings in Mexico City, a highly active seismic zone, where a massive earthquake in 1985 claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people partly due to safety flaws in many contemporary buildings. A recent resurgence in tall building construction in Mexico City has culminated with four new skyscrapers clustered at the west-central end of the city. A great deal of research has had to be done to make these new buildings structurally safe, taking into consideration their relatively small construction sites. Wilcock cited the extensive soil structure interaction analysis undertaken by Arup to look at the way buildings absorb shock, therein discovering a solution that would to use the area’s soft ground to their advantage. He closed by emphasizing the importance of careful collaboration between architects and engineers to create the best possible form that is both optimally beautiful, safe, and responsive to the particular challenges of the region.

Gary Handel, President, Handel Architects shifted the focus back to the Second City with a presentation on the evolution of the construction of 111 West Wacker, a project whose progress was halted for four years after the economic recession of 2008 along with a nationwide slowdown of construction. Handel led by praising the fantastic location of the site, “The Chicago Riverfront is one of the most spectacular urban spaces in America, flanked by buildings and waterfront . . . It is equivalent to an aqueous Champs d’Elysses.” He went on to chronicle both the challenges and opportunities of transforming this partially completed project in an incredibly rapid timeframe of 19 months, with much of its structure already in place, into a vibrant part of the Chicago landscape. The resulting project, which opened in 2014 and is the largest single rental building in the Loop, was sold In January 2015, setting a new price record for apartment buildings in Chicago.

Session Photo Gallery