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Drawing, Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA: Study Exploring Chromatic Strata, ca. 2005

This is a Drawing. It was architect: Studio Gang Architects and Jeanne Gang. It is dated ca. 2005 and we acquired it in 2014. Its medium is graphite, color pencil on white paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

2013 winner of the National Design Award in Architecture, Jeannie Gang of Studio Gang has gained an international reputation particularly since the construction of Chicago’s Aqua Tower skyscraper (2007-2009). A Chicago native and trained at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Jeanne is no diva. She is known as a down to earth visionary who places more value on what her architecture can do for society than winning awards or attaining “starchitecture” status. In practice, her main concerns are sustainability, improving the environment, and making cities habitable for human beings through the interweaving of the natural world.
These priorities are reflected in her Aqua Tower building, the tallest skyscraper in the world designed by a female architect. Built on the shores of Lake Michigan between Millennium Park and the water, the Tower is a mixed-used residence combining a hotel, rental apartments and condominiums. Its exterior form as well as its ecological and social goals challenge past skyscraper solutions planned for similar lakeshore locations by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Skidmore Owings, Merrill. Rather than a flat-sided or corncob-shaped building which would increase or reinforce the inhospitable Chicago winds, Gang designed an irregular structure whose individually-shaped floors break up and dissipate the wind forces, keeping heating costs down and making life outdoors around the structure more comfortable and useable. The different-sized plates (no two are alike) are made out of poured concrete using a flexible steel form that can be re-shaped and reused for each floor. The irregular rims of the concrete plates create sun-shaded balconies, which are conceived not for solitary relaxation, but as public spaces for apartment dwellers to interact and socialize with adjacent neighbors. The undulating terraces also create a strong connection with the city; each apartment, depending on the curve, offers different perspectives through the streets and buildings. Another space intended for human interaction moderated by nature is provided by a green roof incorporating an outdoor pool, a running track, gardens, fire pits and a yoga terrace.


Dubbed the Aqua Tower because of public comparisons to waves rippling across the façade, Jeanne says she was actually thinking of the earth’s strata. As a collector of dirt, the architect is attuned to the land on which her buildings stand. The topography in this case, as can be seen in two of her preparatory drawings, became the starting point for the design. The series of drawings given to Cooper-Hewitt were carefully and thoughtfully selected by the architect to document the different stages in the design process.

This object was donated by Studio Gang. It is credited Gift of Studio Gang Architects.

Our curators have highlighted 1 object that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

29 x 22.7 cm (11 7/16 x 8 15/16 in.)

It is signed

Signed, lower right: JG

It is inscribed

Inscribed in caps, lower right: EAST BLDG.P

Cite this object as

Drawing, Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA: Study Exploring Chromatic Strata, ca. 2005; Architect: Studio Gang ; USA; graphite, color pencil on white paper; 29 x 22.7 cm (11 7/16 x 8 15/16 in.); Gift of Studio Gang Architects; 2014-4-4

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68267959/ |title=Drawing, Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA: Study Exploring Chromatic Strata, ca. 2005 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=26 August 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>