COMPETITIONS: When did you decide to become an architect? Was it something you saw early on, or a personal connection?
JEANNE GANG: I always liked making things as a kid, rather than playing with pre-made toys. Not that as an architect you are actually building your own buildings, but it’s a profession that is related about putting things together, thinking how things work, making models, etc. While growing up on family trips, we looked at a lot of architecture, landscape and bridges. My dad was an engineer; so he always would go out of the way to go across some long bridge. One of the things that made a big impression on me was seeing the Indian native-American cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, where landscape and architecture was kind of blended and so connected to culture. Also, being good at math and art was a good combination which led me into that.
COMPETITIONS: Maybe you don’t have to be good at math anymore to become an architect. Werner Sobek, Helmut Jahn’s engineering expert for many years, said that the students he had at Harvard were mainly interested in designing something, not necessarily how it would be put together — they could give that to somebody else to figure it out.
JG: Then why couldn’t just anyone be an architect? If you aren’t going to be connected to how it’s put together, then why go to school for so many years? Architecture is at its best when it is a synthesis of structure, materials, forms. If it’s missing one of those things, it’s dropping down a notch.
COMPETITIONS: After finishing your studies at the University of Illinois and Harvard, you worked in the office of OMA in the Netherlands. This wasn’t your first stay in Europe. So I’m wondering what you took from those experiences?
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