Q & A with Jeanne Gang: Architect of the New CCA Campus

Photo of Jeanne GangJeanne Gang, principal of Studio Gang

In November 2016 the college announced the selection of architecture firm Studio Gang to design the expanded campus in San Francisco. The decision followed an international architect search and a two-year inclusive planning process to address the future of CCA.

Board Chair C. Diane Christensen commented, “Studio Gang’s visionary work, commitment to innovation and sustainability, and collaborative work style makes the firm an excellent fit for this project and for CCA.”

Studio Gang is a collective of more than 80 architects, designers, and thinkers who work together to design and realize projects at multiple scales—architecture, urbanism, interiors, and exhibitions.

The firm’s portfolio includes innovative facilities for higher education and arts institutions, as well as such compelling projects as the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo and Aqua Tower, both in Chicago.

We sat down with Jeanne Gang, founder and principal of the firm, to get her thoughts on this once-in-a-lifetime project for CCA.   

What excites you about this project?

I’m excited to bring these two campuses together. The opportunity of combining them is to find what the campuses have in common and, in doing so, reinforce the identity of CCA in a way that I hope will bring the school to the next level.

How do you think Studio Gang's practice aligns with CCA's values and ways of working?

Both Studio Gang and CCA are deeply rooted in curiosity, investigation, and experimentation. I think in both cases, this iterative, research-based approach is always in service to building and enriching relationships and community.

How will you manage and execute this project?

We’ve already begun! We understand and hope to build upon the wealth of planning and preliminary programming work that has already been done by CCA.

Next, we will ask lots of questions, seeking perspectives from all sources. The faculty retreat on January 28 was an important first step for us to connect to more than 100 faculty members. We look forward to a process that includes many moments of student outreach, tours with staff, and conversations with community members.

Is there a typical process that you follow?

We don’t have a “typical process” and instead are guided by a desire to understand the unique culture of CCA so that we can translate our research, analysis, and investigation into ideas and options specific to CCA, this site, and this moment in time.

Sustainability is a key factor for CCA's new campus. How will you approach that issue?

We’ll start by learning what’s most important and impactful to the CCA community. We’ll explore how to connect people with their environment locally through indoor/outdoor practice, and regionally and globally through resources such as energy, water, and the materials of their work. We will be looking for ways to make the campus work more like a circular economy, where nothing is wasted.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge in this project?

The biggest challenge will be creating a campus with a strong, cohesive identity for the school while at the same time making a building that is flexible and hackable.

You've done projects for other educational institutions. What lessons have you learned?

Our biggest lesson is always to listen intently, and to use all the tools at our disposal -- drawings, models, diagrams -- for people to react to, as a way to draw out the knowledge that is embedded in the institution. 

This summer members of the Studio Gang team will teach a course in CCA's undergraduate Architecture Program. Students will work on an issue related to the new campus design.