Jeanne Gang
Jeanne Gang  Photo: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune

The completion of Aqua Tower in 2010 gave Jeanne Gang coast-to-coast cachet. Since then, she has won a National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt museum and was named the 2016 Woman Architect of the Year by The Architectural Review. She’s got projects scheduled in New York, San Francisco, and St. Louis, and in Chicago she’s planning another dazzling skyscraper on Wacker that’ll be the city’s third-tallest building when it’s done in 2020.

But some of her most important work is woven into the fabric of the city in more subtle ways: like the nature boardwalk and pavilion at Lincoln Park Zoo’s South Pond, or the glassy, angular Eleanor Boathouse on the Chicago River, or the brand-new Campus North Residential Commons at the University of Chicago. The standout for me? The Lavezzorio Community Center in Auburn Gresham. Built in 2008, it’s got a street-friendly brick-and-concrete façade and a colorful, naturally lit interior that includes a wide staircase where kids are meant to congregate and play.

These projects may get less attention than Gang’s soaring towers, but their quiet beauty and their power to improve the lives of everyday Chicagoans make them just as impressive in my book.