|former Polish National Alliance (click images for larger view)|
On the heels of recent announcements of her firm being in the hunt for major new residential towers both in San Francisco and back at Chicago's Lakeshore East, which her sculpted Aqua tower put on the international map, DNAInfo Chicago's Alisa Hauser's reported last week that Gang's lawyer was appearing before the permit review committee of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks regarding his firm's retrofit of the building at 1520 W. Division as their new headquarters. Although Gang is proposing the building be landmarked, it wasn't even on the Commission's March agenda, but that didn't stop commission staff from recommending approving - with certain conditions - the architect's plans for making the structure a workable home.
Last December the district in which both Gang's new and old homes are to be found - around a square with an entrance to the Blue Line CTA stop and centered by the Nelson Algren Fountain - was officially designated by the Chicago City Council as the “Polish Triangle”, but its central roll in the lives of Chicago's Polish citizens goes back nearly a century-and-a-half. Beginning just after the Great Fire of 1871, the three-way intersection was known as the “Polish Downtown”. According to the Northwest Chicago Historical Society history, “Nearly every Polish undertaking of any consequence in the U.S. during that time either started or was directed from this tight-knight neighborhood.” With shops, theatres and large department stores (Wieboldt's and Goldblatt's), the district thrived as one of Chicago's many vibrant neighborhood commercial centers, until the lethal combination of the malling of America and white flight to the suburbs wiped them all out in late mid 20th-century.
|image courtesy The Chuckman Collection|
|image courtesy of The Chuckman Collection|
distinctive designs that have made Gang globally renowned originated, from The Starlight Theater in Rockford, to the titanium shingle-clad Chinese American Service League, the still unbuilt Ford Calumet Environmental Center, to Aqua, the Columbia College Media Center, and, the WMS Clark Park boathouse. The walls are infused with the spirit of that creative history, but Hauser quotes Studio Gang's Harry Soenken as saying that, now up to 50 employees, the old offices are “bursting at the seams. We hope to have 65 people by the end of this year.” And to move into their new space shortly thereafter.
|Polish Triangle, 1950's (current Studio/Gang Office below the big Chevrolet sign)|
image courtesy of The Chuckman Collection
Permit Review report, the plans include a one-story addition, setback on the rooftop, and replacement of the aging windows. As is the norm, staff recommended that all new exterior alterations try to match, as much as possible, the original materials. Staff approved lowering the basement window sills on Bosworth “only if needed.” Changes to signage are to be reviewed once completed.
Jeanne Gang Before Aqua - a look at her life and early work.