Jeanne Gang explains design for Chicago's Vista skyscraper

Chicago's Vista skyscraper by Jeanne Gang will be world's tallest building designed by a woman

In a newly released video, American architect Jeanne Gang explains how natural crystal formations inspired the shape of Vista Residences, a new skyscraper proposed for Chicago that will be the world's tallest building designed by a woman (+ movie).

Along with the video, the developer has released new interior and exterior images of the 1,140-foot-tall (348 metre) tower by Studio Gang.

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

Vista Residences will be the third tallest building in Chicago behind the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower. It is slated to be the tallest building in the world designed by a woman, according to the team behind the project.

The design features a trio of glass towers arranged in a row, with heights of 47, 71, and 93 storeys. Renderings show wavy facades that overlook the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

Gang said the massing was inspired by nature – specifically a type of crystal formation called "frustum," which resembles a pyramid without a pointy peak.

"With Vista, we stumbled upon this naturally forming geometry in nature. It's called a 'frustum.' It's found in crystal formations – fluorite and sapphire, actually," said Gang.

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

"By stacking those and turning them over, we get this undulation in and out, which creates really interesting views either toward the city or skyward."

The towers are sheathed in varying colours of glass that take their cue from the water. "We're using a variety of lake blue colours, from the deeper to the lighter, to create a wave gradient across the overall height of the building," said Gang.

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

The complex will contain more than 400 apartments and a hotel, with residential units averaging 2,500 square feet (232 square meters). The project also calls for a wine cellar, tasting room, and demonstration kitchen.

Completion is scheduled for 2020. Assuming it receives all necessary approvals, the skyscraper will rise on the northern edge of the 11-hectare Lakeshore East development.

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

The project is backed by Chinese developer Wanda Group and Chicago-based Magellan Development Group. The initial design was first unveiled in late 2014.

"This will be a huge contributor to the Lakeshore East community, one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods to live in Chicago," said Magellan in a recent statement.

Master planned by SOM, the Lakeshore East development was built on the site of a former rail yard. It already includes apartment blocks, shops, a school, and a hotel, all of which are arranged around a central park.

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

Studio Gang designed another building there – the 261-metre-high (856-feet) Aqua tower, which was completed in 2011.

"Magellan from the beginning saw the potential for that whole piece of property," said Gang in the new video. "They've been able to pull off a very cohesive community. They really have the same vision as I do for creating community. They understand what it means to do good architecture."

Gang added that most of her firm's work is centred on the idea of community. "We really think about people, and how people use space, and how people relate to each other within space," she said.

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

Gang, one of the most world's most prominent female architects, started her Chicago-based practice in 1997.

"Chicago is a city all about architecture. It's the most American city. It's really where modernism started taking off," said Gang in the recent video. "It's also my home, so it was a natural place to begin my practice."

Vista Residences, Chicago by Jeanne Gang

Other projects by Studio Gang include a 14-storey apartment building proposed for Miami, a social justice centre in Michigan, and a boathouse in Chicago.

The firm is also providing urban design services for a new George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art along Chicago's waterfront, with MAD leading the architectural design.

Chicago has been in the headlines lately, as the city gears up for its first Chicago Architectural Biennial. Opening 3 October, the international event will feature exhibitions, installations, and more than 300 programs.