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Didn't win? There's always next year...
September 20, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

The 2011 MacArthur “Genius" Fellowships have been announced ('07, '08, '09, '10 on the Blue). Among the recipients is Chicago-based architect Jeanne Gang. The 82-story Aqua Tower is her first skyscraper, and stands as the tallest building in the world designed by a woman.

"You know, a lot of architects get into fetishized objects,” she said to me. “But when you can design anything you want without actually having to make it, you do wild things that can’t work. And that’s not what I want to do.”
posted by obscurator (71 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every time I see that builiding downtown I remark on how much I like it, but I've managed never to figure out anything about it. Fortunately, as I knew would happen eventually, the internet did my homework for me.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:53 AM on September 20, 2011


Hey! I had a friend who lived in the Aqua building! It was overpriced, kind of stupid, and filled with grad students with wealthy parents. (My friend moved as soon as his lease was up.)

The dumbest thing was the balconies--you know, the ones that make the building look so awesome from the outside? That meant that some units had huge, expansive balconies, and some units had, literally, about a square foot of balcony space. (Why even bother giving that person a balcony at all? Well, you can write "all units with balcony!" on your ads and hike up the price.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:57 AM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh man, I stayed in a hotel recently that had a "balcony" that extended out, no kidding, around 8 inches from the wall. You couldn't even get your whole foot onto it without hitting the railing.

Also, if skyscrapers are phallic symbols from male architects, then surely this one is ribbed for her pleasure.
posted by DU at 8:01 AM on September 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


The dumbest thing was the balconies

Heh. I looked at the pictures and that was the first question I had.
posted by Floydd at 8:01 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Droning sound)

I can't believe (use a delay effect here to get believe to repeat a few times... Believe, believe, believe) they gave Jad (sound of an alka seltzer tab in water) Abumrad (big echo on Abumrad) a grant.
posted by drezdn at 8:02 AM on September 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


Radiolab would probably get less hate if it were more honest in its mission statement, which is to explore the art of combining science, sound design, a mathophobe and a cranky old conservative.
posted by DU at 8:05 AM on September 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


drezdn: I was going to say the same thing, except in a good way, not in a kind of jerky way, because I fucking love Radiolab and also Jad is very nice in person from what I understand, so good for him.
posted by pts at 8:06 AM on September 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I like the aqua tower, at least from outside anyway. I wonder how many MacArthur winners wince when they hear genius awards.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:07 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


But anyway to stay on topic, Aqua Tower looks very nice; it reminds me of 8 Spruce Street/Beekman Tower/New York by Gehry/whatever they're calling it this week, which is to say it's aesthetically very nice and also the fact that I can't even pretend I'll ever be able to afford to live even in the same neighborhood as a place like that kind of dulls my appreciation of the architecture.
posted by pts at 8:10 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, if skyscrapers are phallic symbols from male architects, then surely this one is ribbed for her pleasure.

Please stop thinking of my jokes first.
posted by Trurl at 8:11 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another year, more proof that I am not a genius.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:11 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The 82-story Aqua Tower is her first skyscraper, and stands as the tallest building in the world designed by a woman.

Ain't no glass ceiling in that one, I'll betcha!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:12 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Folks at the University of Michigan bag three of them. Go Blue!
posted by joe lisboa at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Please stop thinking of my jokes first.

Actually, I had to think of a real comment to precede that joke to avoid looking Freudian.
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on September 20, 2011


When it comes to lady buildings in Chicago, I prefer the (fake) story of the Smurfit building: a female architect, tired of all the phallic skyscrapers around, designed hers to look like a giant vagina on a pedestal. Which is why a lot of people call it the Vagina Building.
posted by phunniemee at 8:16 AM on September 20, 2011


Cool building. Reminds me of the Monroe Condos they are building here in Mississauga.
posted by antifuse at 8:17 AM on September 20, 2011


Seeing the reference to Jad Abumrad.

There used to be someone I heard 5-10 years ago I'd say on NPR, who did these "having a talk with yourself" kind of radio bits. Two people, voiced by the same guy, discussing things, with lots of weird effects and noises in the background. Was that this guy? Or someone else? I'm not finding any good examples of Abumrad's work at present to compare with.
posted by Windopaene at 8:17 AM on September 20, 2011


I like her statement about designing things that work. Having worked with many designers/architects that just seem to draw pretty pictures and expect you to just make it with out any consideration of how to engineer it. Most days I'd be happy if they just remember that materials have thickness and mass, and that two masses can't occupy the same space.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:17 AM on September 20, 2011


The deepest balconies are 12 feet (3.7 meters), while the narrowest are only five feet (1.5 meters).
So, large enough to sit cross-legged and stare at the Lake for a while..
posted by obscurator at 8:18 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Folks at the University of Michigan bag three of them. Go Blue!
posted by joe lisboa


I saw that! The two institutions with the most fellows were Harvard and Michigan - each with three.
posted by vacapinta at 8:19 AM on September 20, 2011


It was overpriced, kind of stupid, and filled with grad students with wealthy parents.

This is different from other condo towers how?

Looking at this proposal by Gang, I felt a bit quesy. Concord Pacific has been filling in every conceivable space in downtown Vancouver and along the waterfront with condo developments that are sized for Asian foreign investors (e.g., 2 or even 3 bedrooms in 800 sq. ft.), which is keeping the real estate bubble inflated, and just generally leads to shitty places to live because they're 80 percent renters--which means guys in their 20s living the douchebag lifestyle. My wife and I used to live in Concord Pacific, on the other side of BC Place/Rogers Arena from this development. The tenants above and below us had parties every weekend, and blasted music through the concrete every night. It was mildly amusing watching 'roid freaks bang their girlfriends on their balconies now and then (and I mean up against the railing so that letting go meant falling to your death), but it was generally not a place to live after you're 30.

The solution for Vancouver to reduce housing costs while increasing stock is to limit condo investment through taxation on non-primary residences. If we don't deflate the bubble slowly, it'll simply pop (and I say this as someone who'll lose money on the condo my wife and I bought).
posted by fatbird at 8:23 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that Jeanne Gang had designed the beautiful nature boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo! My husband and I got engaged on an architecture tour of Chicago, of which Aqua was definitely a part. When we got some engagement photos taken, we'd seen some previous ones that the photographer had done at "that wavy wood thingy" but barely knew how to describe it, let alone where it was or any sort of official/unofficial name. How cool to know that she did that one too.

We like her a lot.
posted by Madamina at 8:25 AM on September 20, 2011


Radiolab? Well, bless your heart, MacArthur Foundation.
posted by asockpuppet at 8:27 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope I live long enough to see a post that reads:
"tallest building in the world designed by a woman of color"
posted by Postroad at 8:29 AM on September 20, 2011


Radiolab would probably get less hate if it were more honest in its mission statement, which is to explore the art of combining science, sound design, a mathophobe and a cranky old conservative.

I've mostly enjoyed listening to RL over the years, and I don't mind the audio gimmickry as much as many people seem to, and I have found a great many of their shows to be provocative and even moving -- but I do have to admit Abumrad's all-too-frequent "Whuuut, I is too dumb to understand them numbers yer using" routine has worn a bit thin. Had I been on the MacArthur committee, I suspect that might have swayed me against giving him the grant, brilliant as he demonstrably is with the mixing board.

As for the substance of the FPP, nice skyscraper, though if the trend continues with these organo-wavy designs, people are going to think they've accidentally ingested hallucinogens when they look up at them.
posted by aught at 8:31 AM on September 20, 2011


Oh man, I stayed in a hotel recently that had a "balcony" that extended out, no kidding, around 8 inches from the wall. You couldn't even get your whole foot onto it without hitting the railing.

You stayed in a hotel that had a really nice, big window that opened all the way to the floor and they were nice enough to put a railing up so you wouldn't fall to your death.
posted by The World Famous at 8:33 AM on September 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


"Whuuut, I is too dumb to understand them numbers yer using"

If you imagine Radiolab as a children's program, then you will see its brilliance.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:34 AM on September 20, 2011


This is different from other condo towers how?

You realize that not everyone moves to the suburbs to buy a house immediately upon reaching "adulthood", right?


Also:
The deepest balconies are 12 feet (3.7 meters), while the narrowest are only five feet (1.5 meters).

What? I don't know how they're measuring that, but I have seen the square foot of balcony space with my own eyes. The only thing I can think of (aside from them lying, which, I'll try to be more charitable) is that they're counting widest depth of the whole strip of balcony, even though some units open up only to the tail end of the balcony piece. Or maybe they're not considering the thicknesses of the door hardware and safety railings.
posted by phunniemee at 8:35 AM on September 20, 2011


It's even worse to tell children that math class is hard.
posted by DU at 8:36 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


We should have a meetup at Aqua Tower. Everyone bring a tape measure.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:37 AM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


But I'm a girl and I'd rather go shoppppping.
posted by maryr at 8:38 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you imagine Radiolab as a children's program, then you will see its brilliance.

Sorry, don't mean to make this YA RadioLab thread, honest, but I think the frequent philosophical tangents (particularly what I think of as the "Season of Death" episodes) make that angle not really work either.

No, it's just the "I'm a Humanities major, I hate math, my brain isn't built to understand the numbers!" nonsense -- it annoyed me coming from my fellow liberal arts majors years ago in college, and still annoys me coming from an NPR show.
posted by aught at 8:40 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


We should have a meetup at Aqua Tower. Everyone bring a tape measure.

The dick measuring meet-ups are traditionally held in Texas.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:40 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I stayed in a hotel recently that had a "balcony" that extended out, no kidding, around 8 inches from the wall. You couldn't even get your whole foot onto it without hitting the railing.

These are called Juliet balconies (i.e. Romeo and), and are basically there so you can open up the room and not fall to your death. French balconies are similar, but actually don't protrude at all. They're just a railing across a set of doors, made possible by the thickness of walls back when they were popular.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 8:42 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scooped.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 8:42 AM on September 20, 2011


The dick measuring meet-ups are traditionally held in Texas.

I didn't say bring a yardstick.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:43 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


people are going to think they've accidentally ingested hallucinogens when they look up at them.

Well, wandering across the street certainly isn't going to sober you up.
posted by obscurator at 8:44 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the sentiment of practicality that embodies the architect vs civil engineer conflict in Jeanne Gang's quote. It's something I think I.M. Pei could learn from. That said, I think the high-rise is ugly. The picture Madamina links to is quite nice, however.
posted by k5.user at 8:50 AM on September 20, 2011


Well, wandering across the street certainly isn't going to sober you up.

Yeah, I know. I spent a couple hours attempting to take arty photos of the Geary pavilion and the Bean from every possible angle a few years back and I think I'm still having the occasional mild flashback.
posted by aught at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


there are a few people who won this year that are really interesting, if I can expand the history a little bit.

Tiya Miles, and her work on African America and Cherokee history's intertwinings--because of how she uses oral history, vernacular sources, and offical archives which allowed disenfranchised people to have their stories told in new ways, and provided histories that seem genuinely public. As well, with the recent American controversies about Idigenious nationhood, and the Cherekoee's problematic recent activities about their African American members, the context is really important.

Matthew Nock, whose work on on suicide may actually provide new insights, esp. on teenagers and young adults. His 2009 book might be a framework to move the numbers downwards for 30 years--and this is after medication and de-stigmatizing mental illness. As someone who is worried that he will kill himself, this seems to be a fairly big step, in figuring out what self-harm means, what suicide means, and what these two have seperate and apart.
it's a little dry

and Jacob Soll's early modern history and how it connects to the origins of the nation state, which seems to be a corrective to Ferguson et al's cult of monetary conservationism.

There are also chemists and physicists who seem swell, but not my field


Also, frankly--Kay Ryan is a bit of a hack.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love that building. I can see it from my office window, if I stand right up next to to the window, and look hard to the right.
posted by hwestiii at 9:22 AM on September 20, 2011


* gets a little troubled looking at the photos *

Well, now I know what some of the architecture of R'lyeh looks like.
posted by curious nu at 9:31 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I forgot that Metafilter is too cool to like Radiolab. I love Radiolab -- I love everything about it. And I'm not too awesome to appreciate a host that takes the trouble to bring his audience along, even if I personally don't need it.
posted by rusty at 9:53 AM on September 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I absolutely think Radiolab is deserving of this. Good on the MacArthur foundation (I meant if fucking Alex Ross gets one...). That show is brilliant, entertaining and appeals to wide swaths of the population. During a time when both radio and a general public interest in science are dying entities, Radiolab has done wonders in bringing back both - and in an engaging, interesting and artful way. I can't count the number of times Radiolab has blown my mind.

It isn't meant to be a text book; it isn't meant to uncover anything new - it's meant to explain things through a public medium that has a lot of limitations and a dwindling audience (though the fact that NPR has made such a comeback in recent years is owed to things like Radiolab). And in order to do that, it has to assume that the average listener doesn't know much and doesn't have much of an attention span. It isn't a freaking college course - it's a radio program. It combines interesting stories - personal stories, which are the heart of good radio - with science, history, philosophy and sound art. That is no easy task. The guests are always reputable and fantastic - Oliver Sacks, Brian Greene, MeFi's own Aaron Fox - which is more than can be said for most media these days.

And it has covered extremely disparate but relevant topics, many of them seemingly quotidian, with equal elegance - how we decide things, why we like the songs we do, why placebos work, what death is or might be, where exactly a person is in space, personal identity. For millions of Americans it has brought back an interest in science and an interest in radio. There's something to be said for that.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:05 AM on September 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


k5.user, it looks pretty darn cool up close, if it matters.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:11 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can't say that the Aqua Building is my cup of tea, but I'm very pleased to find Peter Hessler, 'a journalist cited for his writing about reform-era China' among the list.
posted by of strange foe at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2011


How did Chicago get such a cool looking building?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:53 AM on September 20, 2011


Kay Ryan?... ... ...

.
posted by Shit Parade at 10:54 AM on September 20, 2011


How did Chicago get such a cool looking building?

We invented cool-looking buildings.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:00 AM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


By the way, I should have been more welcoming to general MacArthur comments in the FPP, seeing as there were 22 recipients, and THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE MacAFPP/year. 'Twas impossible to include more than one recipient without a sprawling post, which I was admittedly racing to finish...

Ergo, hope we are all enjoying the sometimes-divergent thread. As it is, I've only begun exploring this year's "genuis" pool...

posted by obscurator at 11:19 AM on September 20, 2011


How did Chicago get such a cool looking building?

That's like asking how Rome got so many Roman ruins.
posted by The World Famous at 11:19 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Chicago invented the skyscraper, to be sure, but hasn't really seen many especially cool buildings in a while. The Miesian era is long over, and that created a lot of the iconic buildings in the city (from Daley Plaza to the Federal Building to Standard Oil/Amoco/Aon to Sears/Willis to Hancock). The last 20 years have seen a lot of very interesting architectural approaches tried out everywhere but the United States -- Dubai, Hong Kong, and so on all have some really "weird" buildings if you're used to all glass boxes. I'm happy that the US is starting to finally join the party, and in many ways Aqua -- as interesting as its balcony treatment may be -- is a dressed-up Miesian box. The Chicago Spire would have been really cool to have, especially in some of its more twisty early conceptions.
posted by dhartung at 11:24 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The deepest balconies are 12 feet (3.7 meters), while the narrowest are only five feet (1.5 meters).
So, large enough to sit cross-legged and stare at the Lake for a while..


Five feet deep isn't particularly shallow, in the grand scheme of things. It's not exactly luxurious, but it's wide enough to put a lawn chair out and stretch your legs. I've lived in PLENTY of apartments that had balconies no deeper than that.
posted by antifuse at 11:28 AM on September 20, 2011


Wow, Peter Yau didn't win ... again?
posted by jayder at 11:34 AM on September 20, 2011


Wow, Peter Yau didn't win ... again?

Apparently he omitted a wildly popular name from his compositionally fallacious chart: One in every 87,775 Americans is named JAD and popularity of name JAD is 11.39 people per million.*

*No idea whether/how to verify this statistic, but such are the internets.
posted by obscurator at 11:43 AM on September 20, 2011


Looking at this proposal by Gang, I felt a bit quesy. Concord Pacific has been filling in every conceivable space in downtown Vancouver and along the waterfront

It's funny, I have almost the opposite reaction. I'd welcome an addition to the waterfront that didn't look like all of those Concord Pacific buildings. Even the more recent ones with the random colored panels strike me as odd, while the one you linked to are actually quite interesting looking buildings.

That said, I'm with you on the feeling that the waterfront does not need more condos.
posted by Hoopo at 11:45 AM on September 20, 2011


Aqua Tower is a very cool looking piece of sculpture. The photos really show how light can play on it's surface in different ways. Though you could criticize it for saying that it's just a manipulation of the facade, that it's still just a box underneath, I think it's fascinating that the apparent form was made just by extending the floors a little. A lot of bang for very little buck.

That being said, however, I wish the details and functionality of buildings were given as much weight as the outward appearance when buildings are appraised for their architecture. I am always wondering what it's like to ride the elevator, to walk the stairs, or to enter the lobby, when I see a building like that. Innovation in the details is much, much harder to pull off.
posted by Xoebe at 12:22 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: i think the same thing every time I see that building. but when I clicked on the flickr hivemind link I thought "wow, what a hideous building. I wonder where that monstrosity is?" Then I had to click on her portfolio, look at the map, so I could picture the actual building in my head and see it all nice again.

(Also, I have never in my whole life heard that building referred to as the vagina building. seriously. what kind of ladyparts do you people have?)
posted by crush-onastick at 12:46 PM on September 20, 2011


Here are some interior and balcony photos of Aqua.

I, too, love the building. I've heard it criticized as "just being a box with wavy balconies," but I think that's unfair. Part of the reason it works in its milieu is that it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb. It stands out, but it also plays nice with its many less beautiful neighbors.

Not incidentally, Aqua won the 2009 Emporis Skyscraper Award. Aqua in Chicago is the 2009 recipient of the annual Emporis Skyscraper Award. The building was chosen by our jury for its dynamic and fascinating visual appearance, its application of green building techniques to large-scale residential construction, and its innovative use of satellite-based positioning technology in precision construction methods.

Note: According to Emporis, Aqua is the third highest building in the world designed by a woman. Hazel Wong has two that are higher in Dubai.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 12:54 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Genuis?
posted by Renoroc at 1:03 PM on September 20, 2011


Genuis?

*^_^*
posted by obscurator at 1:06 PM on September 20, 2011


It is really weird to see a post discussing a building when I lcan ook over my shoulder and see it about 400 feet away.

I also love, love, love it. And not just because I find it so amusing to watch people do yoga or swim from my desk at the pedestal park.

Though seriously, crush is right -- the flickr hivemind gives one a weird take on it. Here's a less weird view... which doesn't show off how special it is either but was taken RIGHT NOW.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:15 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I can look" is what I meant to say up there.

I can look.

But I can't add text and links at the same time.

Or preview.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:16 PM on September 20, 2011


[Ungenuised.]
posted by cortex at 1:22 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, frankly--Kay Ryan is a bit of a hack.

Kay Ryan has persistently been one of the few poets out there who is doing something outside of a certain lock-step academic aesthetic. The long-winded adjectival dripping mush that is much of contemporary poetry needs a counterpoint, and she's it (along with a few long-winded formalists who are having a bigger influence as time goes on). And she can imbue a small poem with sadness like no one else. Love her work.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:58 PM on September 20, 2011


I forgot that Metafilter is too cool to like Radiolab.

You'll reliably find someone on metafilter who hates anything.
posted by empath at 2:55 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


the young rope rider

i am not sure that's a fair cop, there are a number of really fascinating poets who aren't academic, who are formally conserative, who can run a line, and who aren't Ryan's awkard enjambment, trite messages, worn out images, and a desperate desire to be loved. some of them are even american: Mary Oliver, David Trinidad, Ronaldo V. Wilson, Jenny Factor, Tess Taylor, Marylin Hacker, Charles Simic, WS Merwin, Paul Muldoon (he's american now)...
posted by PinkMoose at 3:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently the "vagina building" is a persistent myth that CAF docents have heard over the years. And oh my God [nsfw].
No MacArthur Foundation money was used in the production of this post.
posted by dhartung at 4:52 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


In real estate you get what you pay for and it is likely that people with small balconies don't pay as much as people with bigger balconies.

Regardless, it is amazing that such a simple change can make a standard box building very expressionistic.
posted by JJ86 at 6:10 PM on September 20, 2011


And oh my God [nsfw].

Ha! I know the folks responsible for that gem.
posted by phunniemee at 6:24 PM on September 20, 2011


Do they get to include the job-title "Genius" on their business cards?
posted by e-man at 10:12 PM on September 21, 2011


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