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Architect Jeanne Gang Delivers Talk on Riverfront Construction

On Thursday, September 12th architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang gave a talk in Moore Lounge both highlighting the work her studio has done and the future construction of the Powerhouse. Gang was introduced first by Beloit College President Scott Bierman. Her talk blended remarks on her current projects and also reflection on her design process. 

Gang primarily highlighted projects oriented towards transforming cities relationships to rivers. This vision and passion for reorienting how the public understands the connectivity between cities and rivers in the Midwest is something rarely seen in architectural design. In 2013 Studio Gang collaborated with the city of Chicago in reshaping the Chicago River’s relationship to its surrounding community. The final project resulted in two public boathouses. 

In discussing these projects Gang spoke to the intentionality of the design of these boathouses, both designs are symbolic of a rowing motion. Two of these boathouses would go up in Clark Park, and Park 571 in Chicago. Environmentally conscious design is a large part of what fuels Studio Gang’s past and present projects. Many of Studio Gang projects require extensive research into the history of spaces and how best design can reflect those. This recognition of history and research as it relates to design is most present in the Memphis RiverFront Concept. This project similar to the Chicago River one focused on enhancing and evolving the relationship that city has to the Mississippi River.

According to Gang, as cities grow they modernizes the relationships to the ecological environment around them changes. Gang discussed this project in immense depth from both the history of the Memphis River Landing to the historical and political tension that was happening in the city at the time. The political tensions of Memphis involving Civil War history and Confederate general memorials unfolded during Gang’s time in the city. This would later come to influence her work on the project with inclusive design being a key centerfold of this project. 

As part of an effort to better understand the community, Gang brought together seven key players from the community, one of these a leader in getting the Confederate statues taken down. These would become notable figures in Gang’s design process, with tributes to these community members through stones from the RiverFront. 

Some of the most striking remarks raised were questions posed to the audience about how they could reconceptualize a city landmark and the complexities involved with thinking about community spaces with complex histories. These are two challenging questions that American cities have faced within the last decade. In her concluding remarks she touched on some compelling elements of the Powerhouse, including that the river will be used to provide heat exchange. As a Belvidere native Gang spoke eagerly of the Powerhouse project and the chance to work on the Rock River. 

The talk was followed by a question and answer session, during which Gang introduced the audience to some key players in the Powerhouse Project, including Juliane Wolf, Maciej Kaczynski, and Michael Nham. Each spoke to their background in education and the role that they played in the Powerhouse. The talk had a slim student attendance but was well attended by faculty and other members of the College.

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