The most recent New Yorker profiles Chicago architect and certified genius Jeanne Gang, whose "marriage of thinking and building," Amy Waldman writes, is on par with Rem Koolhaas, while her attention to material detail "recalls Louis Sullivan and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe." The piece is a periscope into the world of a (female!) architect whose career prime is still years ahead, but whose fresh take on building, one that unlocks the "secret mystery" of materials and attempts to "restore wildness to nature in urban settings," easily morphs her into a hero—one who casually demands a lot from her (mostly male-lead) employees and trains her staff each summer in a Girl Scout-style retreat. Along those lines, here are seven things you may not have known about Gang:
7. At 859 feet tall, her Aqua tower in Chicago, is the tallest building ever designed by a female-led firm.
6. Gang calls on (unorthodox) experts for her research, from boatbuilders to show her how to bend wood to look like a tortoiseshell to "an old-school hippie" who trained her staff on how to use cordwood rather than brick for masonry.
5. Gang's mother, a community activist, Gang's Girl Scout troop, "an experience she replicates, in a fashion, each summer, when she holds a rustic retreat for her staff, often instructing them in a Scout skill."
4. For her boathouse designs commissioned by Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gang studied prints of a photographer of the 1800s. Eadweard Muybridge shot stop-motion images that demonstrate in rigid form the movements of rowers. "Her design re-creates the rhythm with structure: the roof undulates like an oar's rise and fall. Because the peaks repeat, so do the clerestory windows."
3. Gang once told her now-husband: "I didn't want to work for men, I didn't want to be bossed by them. It made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to be shunted into interior design, and I saw how these practices work. I wanted the freedom to explore my own interests."
2. In her and her husband's apartment, "in place of interior walls are stepped bookcases that their cats can climb."
1. When the developer for Aqua, who decided to take a chance on Gang after meeting her at a Harvard alumni event, first asked for designs, Gang happened to be in Paris, where she then "locked herself in a hotel room to sketch and then to model, using paper and tape from the front desk."