Mira Tower in San Francisco


Lecture Series Examines Architecture “Beyond the Envelope”

March 3, 2022

Pictured: The bay windows on the exterior of the Mira Tower allows for the a differentiated set of apartment layouts.

Jeanne Gang, the founding principal and partner of Studio Gang, a Chicago-based architectural practice, was the latest presenter and interviewee in a planned series of six presentations and student-led interviews within the School of Architecture and Design’s Spring 2022 Lectures and Events. The series, named Communities, features leading architects and is part of the master’s in architecture course Special Studies in Architecture | Beyond the Envelope taught by Professor of Architecture Tom Verebes, Ph.D.

Researching pioneering architectural technologies and their impact on contemporary practice, this graduate seminar course explores modes of practice at the frontiers of design, production, and construction technologies. The focus of the course is the study of exemplary envelopes (the entire exterior system of a construction) of six seminal buildings completed within the first two decades of the 21st century, each corresponding to a theme.

In a live public broadcast, Associate Professor and Chair of Architecture Giovanni Santamaria, Ph.D., and Verebes kicked off the event by introducing Gang, who then gave a brief presentation of Studio Gang’s project, the Mira Tower, a condominium complex in San Francisco. Students in the master’s in architecture program Adnan Jangbarwala and Seth Mears then interviewed Gang about her work.

The theme of this presentation was “Modularity, Components, and Mass Customization,” and looked at the Mira Tower and how it stands as a beacon for recent innovations in material production in an era of accelerated industrial change. The Mira Tower advances the paradigm shift to more flexible manufacturing modes through the customization of façade systems to create a family of bay windows, which in turn are mapped onto a differentiated set of apartment layouts, and arrayed vertically in a series of distinct floor plans, creating the dynamic visual effects of the transformational geometries of its architectural skin.

Gang is known for an inquisitive approach to design that unfolds new technical and material possibilities and expands the active role of designers in society. She creates striking places that connect people, their communities, and the environment. Intertwined with built work, Gang and the firm also develop research, publications, and exhibitions that push design’s ability to create public awareness and give rise to change—a practice Gang calls “actionable idealism.” A MacArthur Fellow and a Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Gang has been honored with the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture Design and was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

Upcoming lectures in the series include:

This article was contributed by Professor of Architecture Tom Verebes, Ph.D.