Architect Jeanne Gang Talks About Her Hometown, Chicago

Tali Jaffe

Jeanne Gang
Jeanne Gang. Photo by Sally Ryan.

For tomorrow’s opening night preview of EXPO Chicago, Chicago-based architect Jeanne Gang and contemporary artist Nick Cave collaborate on the performative work, Here Hear Chicago. Incorporating art, design and performance, the project brings together all of the elements being celebrated this week as the art fair and Chicago Architecture Biennial open their doors. Here, Gang gives us some insight into the project and what’s on her Chicago cultural agenda.

Have you collaborated with an artist to this extent before?
The collaboration with Nick is unique, but I’ve collaborated with artists since the beginning of my practice. One of my very first projects was with Dutch artist and sculptor Joep van Lieshout and later with American artist Janet Echelman. It’s exciting to engage with artists at different moments in the artistic process, from creation to curation.

My studio is very interested in creating spaces for artistic production; right now, we’re designing a the new California College of the Arts campus and a new center for arts and innovation at Spelman College in Atlanta, a building which we hope will help foster the next generation of interdisciplinary artists. At the same time, we just finished building a new office space for the Guggenheim Foundation in New York, which is where they plan the museum’s exhibitions and programming.

What makes Chicago a great city to live and work in?
It’s like living in a three-dimensional encyclopedia of skyscrapers. You can see every innovation that has ever been developed from the first tall building to the latest. The other thing I like is that it is a place where it is easy to work, to make things, and to engage with culture and creative people on a daily basis.

Nick Cave’s Carriageworks. Photo by Zan Wimberley.

What is your favorite cultural destination there?
I’m a museum junkie and I like visiting all the museums: the DuSable, the Field, the Art Institute, and the Smart—it’s impossible to pick a favorite! And I also like theater; Writers Theatre is number one for me.

What’s the one place someone visiting the city for the first time shouldn’t miss?
Taking the architecture boat tour run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. It’s a great way to learn about the city’s architecture and to understand the importance of the river throughout the history of Chicago. At the same time, it highlights some of the new projects happening along the river, which give you a sense of what the future holds for Chicago.

Get more suggestions on where to go in Chicago with our city guide