The Writers Theatre in Glencoe

Tucked in the vibrant downtown of the Glencoe community — just down the road from Optima Verdana®, stands the Writers Theatre, a monument to the creative spirit and architectural prowess. A testament to the convergence of the arts, architecture, and community, the Writers Theatre is a touchstone of cultural life across the North Shore. At Optima®, we share a deep appreciation for such special places that elevate design and aesthetic experiences while enriching the community.

Conceived in 1992, the Writers Theatre was designed to celebrate the raw power and intimacy of the written word. It is a professional theater company that, since its inception, has nurtured a strong commitment to the appreciation of intricate writing and profound performances. This dedication has earned the theatre numerous awards, including the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award and being called “America’s finest regional theater company” by The Wall Street Journal.

The current structure, designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, was unveiled in 2016, offering a splendid canvas for the theatre’s vision — to be a socially vibrant venue that redefines the audience-performer interaction. And Gang’s design does just that, by providing a sense of inclusion and participation that blurs the lines between the stage and the audience.

The Writers Theatre’s Alexandra C. & John D. Nichols stage

As you step inside, you’ll notice the theatre houses two stages. The primary Alexandra C. & John D. Nichols stage, accommodating 250 people, captures the essence of a traditional theatre, while the secondary Gillian theatre, a more intimate space, caters to 99 patrons, making each performance a personal experience. Architecturally, the building’s wood truss system is both aesthetically striking and acoustically vital, further enhancing the audience’s experience.

A rooftop pavilion and patrons’ lounge are not just architectural details but social spaces. In essence, the Writers Theatre transcends the function of a theatre, transforming into a hub for community activities and social interaction.

The Writer’s Theatre’s patrons lounge and pavilion, Courtesy of Steve Hall and Hedrich Blessing

Looking into the Writers Theatre’s story, we see an embodiment of Optima®’s values— the fusion of beautiful design, functional spaces, and community enrichment. We take great pride and joy in showcasing gems like the Writers Theatre, a testament to what can be achieved when creative storytelling meets architectural brilliance.

As we celebrate the Writers Theatre and its remarkable journey, we’re reminded of the importance of places that are not just seen, but felt. Spaces that invite you in, captivate your senses, and leave an enduring impression. And at Optima®, we remain committed to creating and appreciating spaces that, like the Writers Theatre, stand as enduring testaments to design, culture, and community. Explore some of their upcoming events and shows here!

Women in Architecture: Jeanne Gang

Perhaps one of the most well-known architects of her time, especially in Chicago, Jeanne Gang is the founder and leader of Studio Gang. Born 1964 in Belvidere, Illinois, a small town on the northern border of Illinois, she was raised with the prairies of the midwest and proximity to Chicago’s architectural legacy. 

Gang studied at the University of Illinois before going on to earn a Master of Architecture with Distinction from Harvard Graduate School of Design. After Harvard, she studied abroad in Switzerland and France as a Rotary Fellow before joining Dutch architect and design theorist, Rem Koolhaas and his architectural firm, OMA in Rotterdam. 

In 1997, she established Studio Gang, her own practice headquartered in Chicago. The studio’s mission is to use design to connect people to each other, their communities, and the environment. Soft details that reflect the light of the lake and suggest rippling columns of water can easily be identified as Studio Gang’s work.

Aqua Tower, designed by Jeanne Gang, 2009. Credit: (vincent desjardins) on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Studio Gang Around Chicago

Much of Gang’s work is a prominent part of Chicago’s landscape. Her designs can be found across the city, from O’Hare International Airport to the Loop to Uchicago dorms. Over the years, the studio’s work has become integral to Chicago’s rich architectural legacy. Gang’s 2010 Aqua Tower, situated at 225 N Columbus Dr in downtown Chicago, takes inspiration from terrestrial topography. The facade emulates the contours of a topographic map and reflects light in a way similar to the wave patterns of Chicago’s Lake Michigan. The tower combines a hotel, offices, apartments, and a green roof into a vertical community that facilitates human interaction.

In addition to the studio’s practice, Studio Gang is a strong supporter of climate action. As a member of the Active Transportation Alliance and Architects Advocate Action on Climate Change, the firm supports sustainable forms of transportation in urban environments and radical change in the building sector in regards to climate.

In effort to take climate action, Studio Gang has submitted a design to the C40 Reinventing Cities competition titled Assemble Chicago, a carbon-neutral residential community next to the main branch of Chicago’s public library. The proposed project would provide housing for the downtown workforce including those who earn as little as minimum wage. The design is also eco-conscious and works to reduce carbon pollution, minimize waste, and promote urban biodiversity. 

Studio Gang in the World

Jeanne Gang’s designs can be found across the globe from a powerhouse in Beloit, Wisconsin to the Kaohsiung Maritime Cultural & Pop Music Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Wherever their location and whatever their purpose, the structures focus on immersing themselves in their environment both aesthetically and through their contributions to their ecosystems. Gang’s designs take inspiration from the topography and ecology of their surroundings and concern themselves with how they can bolster the environment and human communities around them, creating the perfect harmony between architecture and nature. 

The thoughtfulness of Studio Gang’s work has been recognized by receiving numerous awards. 

  • MacArthur Fellowship, 2011
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s National Design Award for Architecture, 2013
  • Named Woman Architect of the year by Architectural Review, 2016
  • Royal Institute of British Architects International Fellowship, 2018

Gang currently serves as a Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and lectures frequently around the world. Her studio continues to present unique and conscious designs to the architectural landscape, working to build a sustainable future and sustainable communities.

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