She relates to Ecology, in which the study of a species is studied in relation to its environment, not in isolation. Rather, there is an interconnected web that sustains life. It is this web that Gang and her team explore within the parameters of architecture. How can physical space help build stronger relationships?
The influence of architecture
On a particular project, Studio Gang were commissioned to build a center for social justice leadership, the Arcus Center. Students, who would be using this space, specified the need for a breaking down of barriers. They wanted a space where groups could integrate, where matters could be openly discussed, and where cultural exchange could be encouraged. The inclusion of a central fireplace and a kitchen provided platforms for these exchanges. The design of the space deliberately makes people cross paths, that they might start conversations. Situated with the fire is a meeting place that comfortably forms groups.
This is all well and good with a project that has those needs in mind, but can strengthening of community relationships be achieved in normal living spaces? An apartment block for instance?
Gang and her studio would argue yes. Through thorough consideration of the environment of a project, specifications can be made to encourage social activity. Aqua is a residential high-rise designed by Studio Gang in Chicago. It’s aimed at young working professionals who might be new to the city. Although apartment blocks may have a reputation of being isolative and inward, Gang used the balconies of the building to stimulate social interaction. The shape of the balconies change from floor to floor which creates a kind of ripple effect on the exterior of the building. The other effect is that it allows residents to see each other. Balcony interactions can then be nurtured with community platforms in the building, such as roof terraces, and organic grow projects. The balconies are also designed to break up the force of the wind, making it comfortable for longer periods of time.
Whilst Aqua encourages social interaction between residents, the Polis station is an attempt to nurture a sense of community within the neighbourhood. Throughout Chicago all of the police stations have been constructed to an identical model. The intention was to represent equality in the community. However, the result was contrary.
The stations are cold, isolated blocks which members of the community stay away from out of fear. Through Jeanne’s ideology, the ‘Polis’ station has become a place of community. ‘Polis’ is a Greek word which means; a place with a sense of community. With sports courts and community events located at the station, it has become exactly that. Children now see it as a safe space, rather than a scary place. This in turn creates a greater sense of connection and trust within the community.
Although some question whether architecture has the power to influence social relationships, Jeanne Gang believes that is a vital tool necessary to improve and develop the way we relate to one another.Ask a question
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