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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

Jeanne Gang brings feminine touch to Chicago's muscled skyline

Aqua, the undulating, 82-story structure, brings a fresh approach to skyscraper design.

January 17, 2010|By CHRISTOPHER HAWTHORNE | Architecture Critic

Many of the architects one generation younger still -- those now in their 30s, 40s and early 50s -- seem to have quite productively split the difference between those poles, between crumpled and blobby forms. Their most ambitious talents -- including Gang, L.A.'s Michael Maltzan and the New York firms SHoP and Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis -- are keen to use the computer but also are clear-eyed about its limits and about the need to keep architecture from turning into a digital echo chamber hermetically sealed from the culture at large. Firms of Gang's generation are also experimenting with a range of female leadership, including offices run by individual women, by husband-and-wife teams and by groups of partners of both sexes.

This emerging group possesses a flexible outlook on issues starting with but not limited to gender. In that sense Aqua is not just a rich piece of architectural invention and a milestone for female designers but an encouraging sign of where architecture in the widest sense of the term is headed.

christopher.hawthorne@latimes.com

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