The Feminine Skyscraper

by Katia Savchuk

Aqua, a new 82-story residential skyscraper in central Chicago that has received attention for its unusual wave-like facade, has been equally fêted for being the world's tallest building designed by a woman. Architect Jeanne Gang had never designed a skyscraper and was handed the task by chance.

In a recent review of the project in The New Yorker, Paul Goldberger urged people to focus on the project's architectural merits and eschew "predictable interpretations of skyscrapers as symbols of male identity." We live in a physical environment that is overwhelmingly manmade (literally); most projects are judged as products of individual designers, in reference to the field, rather than taken as symbolic of the sensibilities of half of humanity. It is unfair to draw conclusions about the "feminine aesthetic" on the basis of one individual's portfolio - or even a handful.

Yet, one can't help but notice the building's frills and delicate curves against the skyline of its angular male-designed counterparts. What do you think: Do men and women design differently? Or are the differences individual rather than gender-based?

Credits: Image of Jeanne Gang from Studio Gang. Image of Aqua from The New Yorker.


  1. One of my former professors just lost a campaign to make Barbie's next profession an architect: Guess the next Jeanne Gang will be slow in coming.

  2. To further explore this topic, I suggest reading "The Sex of Architecture." A book of essays that challenges the gender roles in the field of architecture and interior decor. The association has been made that men need to erect buildings, whereas women identify differently. A feminists perspective is that women are often objectified in their culture, therefore become associated with being the Interior Decorators, and working with "objects" or "things". The book raises a larger question, Why aren't more women in architecture?

  3. Ironically, I vaginal, versus phallic, shaped building would probably be difficult to live in.

    Which makes me wonder - folks are always pointing out obvious phallic symbolism of this or that design. Rarely do I hear people say, "my, how vaginal that toothbrush is."

    One might draw many conclusions from this observation: that I'm not around enough vaginally minded people, that there are, indeed, fewer vaginally inclined human-made shapes, etc.

    Someone ought to, in the name of equality, compile a list of very vaginal things to compliment the tired, stereotypically phallic list of racecar, rocket, skyscraper, etc.

  4. i believe the word is "yonic"...


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