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21 First Drafts: Jeanne Gang's Belden Loft

First Drafts is a series exploring the early work of our architectural icons, examining their careers through the lens of their debut projects. Occasionally unexpected but always insightful, these undertakings represent their initial, finished buildings as solo practitioners. While anecdotes accompany the work of all great builders, there's often more to learn about their first acts.

Jeanne Gang
Belden Loft in Chicago, Illinois
Date completed: 1998

Getting the Gig:
In the '90s, Chicagoan Susann Craig, a sales rep for clothing manufacturers and outside art aficionado, rented out the extra bedrooms of her large Hyde Park townhouse, normally to graduate students looking for temporary housing. While she had a handful of renters over the years, one really stood out: Jeanne Gang, an aspiring architect who found herself between studies at Harvard and a gig in Rotterdam with Rem Koolhaas. Gang, who grew up in Belvidere, a small town roughly 70 miles northwest of Chicago, spent her childhood scoping out bridges with her dad, a civil engineer.

"I knew [Jeanne] was a genius before the MacArthur foundation did." >>