Juliane Wolf of Studio Gang on the Chicago Skyline and Equality in Architecture

Juliane Wolf of Studio Gang on the Chicago Skyline and Equality in Architecture

Design:ED Podcast is an inside look into the field of architecture told from the perspective of individuals that are leading the industry. This motivational series grants unique insight into the making of a successful design career, from humble beginnings to worldwide recognition. Every week, featured guests share their personal highs and lows on their journey to success, that is sure to inspire audiences at all levels of the industry. Listening to their stories will provide a rare blueprint for anyone seeking to advance their career, and elevate their work to the next level.

In this episode, Juliane Wolf discusses how Studio Gang continues to successfully contribute to the iconic Chicago Skyline, how they are actively working to advance the issues of equality in architecture, and the firm continues to elevate design at all scales.

Juliane Wolf is a Design Principal for the award-winning Studio Gang. Juliane focuses on designing and advocating for built structures that simultaneously serve the community and the environment. Currently, Juliane is leading up the design of the Vista Tower, the newest addition to the Chicago Skyline, and is Deputy Lead Designer on the Chicago O’Hare Global Terminal.

This episode is available via iTunes, Spotify, and iHeart Radio.


Chicago is one of the most historic skylines in the US. How do you go about designing a new tower, like Vista, that complements the existing skyline? (2:03)

  • “Chicago is, as you pointed out, an interesting city because architecture plays such a big role. In, one, the pride of the city, but also how the city is perceived, the reputation nationally and internationally, so I think that Chicagoans know a lot about their architecture and care a lot about it, and talk a lot about it. So, you do need to get it right because people are definitely paying attention. What’s interesting about Chicago also though… It’s very very flat, and already when we worked on our first high rise, the Aqua Tower, We were thinking about what do the high rises mean for the city itself? Chicagoans have a relation to their high rises similar to people that live in a mountainous environment. Meaning that you use it as a sense of orientation. You know the tall peaks or tall buildings, you know their names and it gives you a sense of where you are within the city. That is something that we are very mindful of, and certainly with Vista that was on the forefront of our thinking…”

With your background, as a leader in sustainable design, what does sustainability mean to you and how to you go about successfully implementing it into your projects? (5:08)

  • “Sustainable design, there are many aspects of it, and they are all important, but first of all I do think it is very important to look at the metrics of the actual performance. I think the best guard against using it as a buzzword is to look at the numbers. First and foremost, sustainable design must reduce energy conception. I think that this is a fundamental issue that we have to deal with as architects is how much energy our buildings use and reduce that. That’s number one for me, for sure, but in addition to that, I definitely don’t think we can stop there. I think that as a next step it is incredibly important to look at comfort and to create pleasant spaces and pleasant buildings because any construction project has a lot of embodied energy within it, which is something to look at as well, but my point is… It is important to create spaces that are used and loved. There is no point to create a building that doesn’t use any energy, but is not used by people either…” 

Studio Gang has been an advocate of gender equality. What is the firm doing to lead the way for equality within architecture? (9:30)

  • “We have a big responsibility, really, as designers. We help to create structures and spaces that are used by many people, and we work on a lot of public projects as well. We are very much mindful of the fact that it takes many different viewpoints to really create spaces that are inclusive. And we don’t have all of the answers. We have to listen to the users but we also have to work towards being a more divers profession ourselves. Something that we are thinking about a lot is, for example, in the U.S. only 2% of registered architects are African American, 3% are Latino, 20% are female, and that is just not good enough. Jeanne is thinking about that a lot and one of the tools to start to address this issue is of course pay equity, so that’s why it was so important to her to close the gender pay gap. That is one tool, it’s not the only tool but one tool to make sure that everyone’s work gets rewarded equally, and with that means your voice is being heard equally as well.” 

What advice would you have for someone trying to get their foot in the door to a widely recognized firm like Studio Gang? (16:20)

  • “Try to be in proximity to the people that you admire, that do good work, and do the best work you can yourself. That is a good way to get noticed. That is a good piece of advice, although if you happen to not be in close proximity to the people that you admire, and you happen to not know them yet, I think that there are ways to get to know them. First could be via lectures or even watching them online, reading the publications, knowing the projects, and then approaching these firms and these people demonstrating that you care and are interested in what they are doing, but also showing how your own work might be a contribution or in dialog with their interests…”

Put us in the room when Studio Gang is commissioning a new project. What sets Studio Gang apart from the other firms on the short list? (19:33)

  • “We are in a fortunate position right now where we get a lot of potential commissions and we are in a fortunate position where we can take a critical look and see if it aligns with our mission. If the goals of the client are in line with our goals, and only then, if that is the case, do we move forward to try to get the project. We certainly don’t get all of them. But every time we do go for a project, what we try to do, first of all is to demonstrate what the goals of the potential client are. Also, in our point of view, what the potential of the project might be. Is it something about maybe tying into the urban environment and adding to the vibrancy of the city or is it about setting a standard for environmental design, there are many aspects for it… The work we do, we do it out of passion. We do it because we believe that we can have a positive impact on our built environment and make it a better place. We are in a way idealist like that…”

About this author
Cite: Design:ED. "Juliane Wolf of Studio Gang on the Chicago Skyline and Equality in Architecture" 03 Aug 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/922143/juliane-wolf-of-studio-gang-on-the-chicago-skyline-and-equality-in-architecture> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.