Jeanne Gang sees architecture differently. To the founder and principal of Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects, architecture is more than just a response to client and program, it is a set of material investigations and research initiatives meant to inform the dense urban conditions of our living environments. The result is a dynamic body of work that creates a new kind of building—interpretive and responsive.

One of the most intriguing examples of this methodology can be seen in Solstice on the Park, a 26-story residential tower for Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. The building's form is shaped by the sun. “The idea has legs,” Gang says, when discussing how the building's south façade responds to the sun's path over the course of a year. “I'm interested in the concept of self-shading,” she explains. “We wanted to create a pattern of angled bays, to create a façade that looks woven.” By canting the structure's glass curtain wall to respond to Chicago's latitude of 71 degrees, sunlight can enter the apartments during the winter for passive solar warming and be kept out to reduce air-conditioning use during the summer.

Aided by engineering firm Arup in modeling the building's energy use, Studio Gang wove the sun's path into the structural design. “We wanted the idea to be visible—figuratively and literally,” Gang says. Similarly, a pattern of openings on the building's east and west sheer walls corresponds with the actual structural diagram, as material was eliminated where it was not needed because forces were low.

While daylighting strategies have been incorporated into commercial interiors, they have not been widely considered for residential work. And daylighting on the scale of a 550,000-square-foot, 145-unit project is particularly new. “The spatial quality of the interiors is set to harness daylight and shadow,” Gang explains. “The uneven quality of the light—baffled light—connects the building and its inhabitants to real time.”

Residents will be able to rely on natural light to illuminate their apartments for the majority of the day, no matter the season, but individual tenants will govern the specifics of the electric lighting solutions. A window treatment, designed to work with the angled façade, is being designed into the base building features.

Designed to target LEED Silver certification, the project returns to a set of first principles about building siting. “The key to the Solstice Tower is getting the light into the building via the floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall, but without the heat gain,” Gang says. “But more than that, it's about seeing how the building will perform—an area of architecture that in underregarded.” Exploring how light interacts with materials, Studio Gang challenges our perception and understanding of building. Solstice on the Park provides us with a new outlook on how we and our living spaces interact with light.

Project Solstice on the Park
Location Chicago
Design Team Studio Gang Architects, Chicago
Renderings Courtesy Studio Gang
Project Size 550,000 square feet