Jeanne Gang: Accessibility is the Hottest New Design Trend

July 12 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Design Trends

As I watched one of those home improvement shows - you know, where they knock down every wall and call everything “farmhouse” style - I wondered: Will the trend in a couple decades be to put up walls? Will people laugh at us weirdos who want open-concept floor plans for entertaining?

Every era features some kind of trend that dates it, from industrial materials in the 30s to pastel chintz in the 80s. One design guru suggests keeping trends limited to accent pieces, while keeping walls neutral to achieve timeless style. What’s one design or décor element that you can’t wait will go away? What’s one that you’d love to see back in style?


It’s one thing to add a hot, new trendy pillow in your living room, and another to adhere to momentary trends in architecture. But there are some trends that are here to stay, like wheelchair access and ease of use for senior homeowners. That’s why architects matter, and why it’s a bummer that 1 in 5 women admit that the gender pay inequality is a serious hindrance to starting a career in architecture.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Jeanne Gang, Architect & Founding Principal of Studio Gang

Plenty of male architects are celebrated in history. And yes, they’re cool and innovative and worthy of recognition. But let’s talk about current architects who are kicking butt. One of them happens to be a woman whose talent has been recognized as influential and astounding. Jeanne Gang was featured as one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2019, and it’s easy to see why.

Jeanne is the founding principal of an architecture and urban design studio in Chicago called Studio Gang. With offices in Paris, New York and San Francisco, it’s obvious that the biz is a hit. Recently, Jeanne was selected as the lead architect for a 2.2 million-square-foot concourse at O’Hare International Airport.

Actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith explains why Jeanne is more than an architect; Anna says Jeanne uses design to change the world. For example, Jeanne and her team at Studio Gang are working on a project called Polis Station. The idea is to ease tension between law enforcement and citizens by transforming a police station into an inviting community center. The project could serve as a way to serve the community in multiple ways by strengthening community members’ connections.

The Polis Station’s concept has already been integrated in an area of Chicago. After engaging with leaders, citizens and police, Studio Gang transformed an unused portion of parking at the station into a well-lit basketball court. B-ball players feel safe and secure, which facilitates their relationships with neighbors and cops.

Jeanne’s first residential space in New York just opened in Brooklyn, with white oak floors and panoramic views of the city. One of the notable characteristics about Jeanne is her willingness to accept help and foster connection. Another notable architect invited Jeanne to work on a skyscraper back in 2004, resulting in Jeanne creating the tallest woman-designed tower in Chicago.

It’s been more than twenty years since Jeanne opened her studio, and as her skill set evolves, so, too, does her mission to make the world a little more beautiful, and a lot more inspired than ever before.


Assata Shakur said:

"Dreams and reality are opposites. Action synthesizes them."

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