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GILDER CENTER IMAGES: STUDIO GANG

A view of the entrance of the Gilder Center (left); Studio Gang’s design aims to ‘reclaim the physical heart of the museum’

Gang is also known for her deep interest in materials, and describes material research as her ‘playtime’. This interest started at a young age. As a child, growing up in a small town outside Chicago, she was “always making stuff,” she says. “I just liked to make space and build things, to work with materials, to test them, try and break them,” she continues. “One exercise I get students to do is taking a material and asking them: How does it break? How does it fail? You learn so much about a material when you try to wreck it.” On childhood road trips across the US in the family station wagon, Gang’s love of the natural landscape deepened. “My earliest memories are from these road trips, filling up my suitcase with a rock from every place we visited,” she explains. “I still have a collection of rocks, pine cones, earth and birds’ nests. The things that nature produces are just incredible.” On one of these trips, Gang remembers visiting the Mese Verde National Park and marvelling at a site of abandoned Native American dwellings built into the hillside. “It just blew me away, the way it combined landscape and architecture,” she says. Studio Gang’s first project was the development for a new college theatre at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. Gang drew from nature to create a flower-like retractable roof for the theatre, consisting of six petal-shaped panels that open in fine weather (and close in bad weather so the show can go on). It was a stylish solution and impressive feat of engineering that marked the fledgling practice as one to watch. Since then, the team has refused to be pigeonholed, working on projects across a range of

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sectors, including leisure (theatres, boathouses, museums, a concert hall), residential, community and education, as well as several innovative temporary installations (including a piece for Design Miami 2014 that used Swarovski crystals to evoke the melting polar ice caps). Along the way, the practice has picked up numerous awards, and last March Jeanne Gang was awarded Architect of the Year at The Architectural Review’s Women in Architecture Awards.

You learn so much about a material when you try to wreck it

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY In November 2015, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) revealed plans to expand, with a new wing designed by Studio Gang. Exhibition design is by Ralph Appelbaum Associates and Reed Hilderbrand are responsible for the landscape design of a portion of the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt Park.

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