How architect Jeanne Gang built on the past

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Sometimes the best new building is the building that already exists. “One of my mottos is ‘Start with what exists’,” says architect Jeanne Gang, whose Chicago-based company Studio Gang has become a benchmark for bold design of the environment and the environment. ‘architecture. Gang’s philosophy relies heavily on community contribution, ecological awareness, and knowing when to reuse existing structures and materials instead of building again.

Founded in 1997, when Gang was just 33 years old, Studio Gang rose to fame for its stunning new structures like the Starlight Theater in Rockford, Ill. And the undulating 82-story Aqua Tower in Chicago. . The company has grown into a global powerhouse (and a permanent winner of Innovation by Design), with work around the world including at Solar Carve in New York, Q Residences in Amsterdam, and St. Regis Chicago in 101 floors, which will be the third tallest building in a city known for its architectural prowess. These projects strengthened Gang’s reputation and helped his company reach 125 people, with four offices in the United States and one in Europe. Upcoming projects include an aspen-inspired mid-rise tower in Denver, a carbon neutral center for the University of Chicago in Paris, and Assemble Chicago, a carbon neutral residential community in the city’s Loop neighborhood.

Gang’s growing focus on sustainability is gaining momentum. Construction and related activities account for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the non-profit organization Architecture 2030. When Beloit College wanted to reinvent a former coal-fired power plant as a multifunctional student union and fitness center, Gang’s proposal topped the shortlist. . Studio Gang’s award-winning design has preserved and adapted elements of the century-old factory’s industrial past, while targeting LEED Silver certification. Since opening in 2020, it has become the heart of the campus, according to Beloit College President Scott Bierman. “As beautiful as the building is,” he says, “the function of this building transcends its beauty by orders of magnitude.”

Gang does not focus exclusively on old industrial structures, but also on concrete office and apartment buildings. “If you think about the scenario where they are not reused, and there are thousands of them across the country, they become a huge bane to cities,” Gang said. “Reusing them has this double advantage. “

Tasked with designing a new building in downtown San Jose, Gang and his team broadened the scope to include the adaptive reuse of a 1980s office building next door. Part of a 5 million square foot downtown redevelopment and multiple buildings, Gang’s vision will help the project achieve a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions, in part by not demolishing the old office building.

Although hers is the rare female-led architecture firm working internationally, Gang is less concerned with staying on top than with moving the industry forward. Reuse, from recycled materials to pieces of parts to entire structures, remains her focus, both in her design work and in her teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“This idea of ​​obsolescence is outdated,” she says. “It’s obsolete.

[Illustration: Mariano Pascual]

Centrale Beloit, Studio Gang

More than a decade after it closed in 2010, a historic power plant next to Beloit College in southern Wisconsin was given unexpected new life. Adaptively redesigned by the architects of Studio Gang, the once-obsolete facility is now a multi-purpose fitness center and student union called Powerhouse. But his coal days are hardly forgotten. The physical elements of its industrial past now support many facets of this unique building.

1. Fireplace
The factory chimney is a landmark in Beloit. After decades of spitting coal smoke, he’s now bringing light into the building’s conference center.

2. Coal hoppers
Room-sized inverted pyramids that once routed coal through ovens have been modernized, one with space for a bar and a sloping interior wall for climbing.

3. Running track
The steel frames of the factory porticoes now support a jogging track that appears to float as it winds through – and sometimes out – of the original building.

4. Adding fields
The large indoor training ground, an area secured against COVID-19, can host the college’s graduation ceremony and will also be the site of a farmers market.


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