The Power of Architecture: Jeanne Gang

When Glencoe’s Writers Theatre wanted to make a statement with their brand-new theater, they turned to hot commodity Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects in Chicago.

The virtuoso $28 million contemporary arts-complex design will make a big splash on the North Shore.

Her 2011 MacArthur Fellow “Genius Grant” describes her architectural work as “integrating conventional materials, striking yet functional designs, and ecologically friendly technology in bold structures that challenge the aesthetic and technical possibilities of the art form.”

The Writers Theatre building, which will debut in 2016, will be a state-of-the-art facility with two theaters, plus rehearsal and support spaces. According to the website, they are “reviving the connection between art and public life. Live theater’s ability to connect and change people across boundaries has made it an important force in urban life since ancient times.” There will be echoes of Tudor design, in a nod to both England’s great theaters as well as Glencoe’s charms, with the center gathering place of the lobby becoming, literally, a beacon of light with the fall of evening—powerful imagery, indeed.

Local recent projects, like the eye-catching Chicago River Boathouses and the sinuous AQUA Tower, attest to the power of her work. Her collaborative style and award-winning designs have put her at the top of her profession; integrity and passion are her driving forces.

How do you define power, and how are you wielding yours to make the world a better place?

Power, as history shows, has the tendency to be abused, so I am skeptical of the idea of power being wielded. As a quality, power can work for the greater good, but its prerequisite is integrity. I want to employ integrity and power to make progress on environmental issues through architecture and design.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love the feeling of discovering something. It could be big or small; it could happen in the model shop, on a site, or through research, alone or with others. Discovery is the part of architecture and design that gives me the biggest rush.