Studio Gang’s vision extends beyond the Wanda Vista

Juliane Wolfe, Design Principal at the Chicago office of Studio Gang architect and urbanism practice, says that her company envisioned much more than a skyscraper when it began working on the Wanda Vista tower.

“With this building, we saw a unique opportunity to create a connection with the neighborhood, the Riverwalk and Lakeshore East park,” she explains. “So many people are being influenced by the site. We had to understand really well what was there.”

In some respects, Studio Gang realized that ambition quite literally. The Wanda plan includes strengthening the connection between Lakeshore East Park and the Riverwalk.

“We spent many hours walking around,” Wolfe continues. “What we typically do is build physical models to see how the connections make sense.”

Juliane Wolf of Studio Gang. Photo courtesy of Studio Gang

Wolfe is a native Frankfurter who came to Chicago “during high school” and later earned a Bachelor’s degree from IIT, where Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang was an instructor.

“It was the first time that I experienced a city that was shaped by tall buildings,” she remembers. “Really exciting and really beautiful people too.”

After graduating from IIT, she started working for Studio Gang. Among the inspirations that guide her is “a high regard to make cities better and more livable.”

The firm’s research near Lake Shore East Park revealed, among other things, that the Riverwalk is a cherished destination. Their plan will strengthen the path between the two areas when the building is completed.

“The Wanda Vista is created of three different stems,” Wolfe explains. “The largest are the outer two. We were able to lift the middle stem, which is supported by the outer two stems, and connect the roads underneath the building.”

The plan also locates the hotel drop-off at the “very highest level” of the street, on “the north side of the east stem.” The residential drop-off is on the south side to the west.

Chicago architecture buffs and critics around the world praise the firm for its creation of the Aqua Tower, an award-winning structure adorned by undulating balconies that soar 82-stories into the air. The flowing grace and dynamic energy of its shape are visible for blocks.

But Studio Gang equipped the structure with an additional flow that affects residents and visitors every day.

“For the Aqua building, we created connections with the elevated stairs from the upper level to the lower level,” Wolfe explains.

Although it does not generate as many headlines as the curvy balconies, it certainly makes the neighborhood a more livable place to be.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

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