"You take a canvas, divide it up like a checkerboard... and go from there." - Man Ray

Studio Gang Architects: Aqua Tower
Studio Gang Architects: Aqua Tower
About the film
  • Year
  • Categories
  • Duration 27 minutes
  • Producers Edgar Howard, Muffie Dunn
  • Director Thomas Piper

Explorations in 21st Century American Architecture Series

Chicago is famous for its role in fostering modern architecture, owing to the legacy of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1900s, and Mies van der Rohe in the mid-20th Century.

Jeanne Gang, founder of Studio Gang, gave the epithet “Chicago School” a new meaning.

Gang, who started her architectural practice in Chicago in 1997, completed Aqua, an 82-story apartment tower, overlooking the city’s Millennium Park in 2009.

She differentiated herself from the big-office architects who typically procure apartment building commissions by designing a sinuously-curving concrete tower that is as imaginative as it is elegant. Already an icon on the city’s skyline, the tower’s concrete floorplates take on a different contour at each level, with variously-curved cantilevered balconies.

Gang worked with Aqua’s developer James Loewenberg of Magellan Development Group, who is also an architect, to come up with a number of green features for the building. The terraces offer shading against the sun, with heat-resistant and reflective glass provided where needed, and the building has an 80,000 square-foot garden on the roof of the podium on which the tower sits.

The film not only examines the thinking behind Aqua which makes the building’s presence against the skyline so striking, but takes visitors to the award-winning “Brick Weave House” (2009) in a Chicago residential neighborhood, where brick walls form a large open-air “screened porch” at the house’s front.

Another project, the SOS Children’s Village Lavezzorio Community Center on Chicago’s South Side (2008) makes use of irregular, workmanlike concrete.

In addition, Blair Kamin, the architectural critic of the Chicago Tribune, appears in the film to elucidate the impact Gang has had on the Chicago landscape.

Principal Funding provided by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation

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