For the first time in 11 years, an architect is among the annual class of MacArthur Fellows. Jeanne Gang, the 47-year-old founding principal of Chicago’s Studio Gang Architects, is among 22 fellows to be awarded the $500,000 grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The money is to be spent without stipulation over the next five years. An Illinois native, Gang is best known for Aqua, an 82-story residential skyscraper in Chicago revered for its rippling concrete-and-glass shell and distinctive curving concrete balconies, which double as passive solar shading. Her other projects include a modestly budgeted community center on Chicago’s South Side; a tessellated, tortoise-inspired pavilion accompanying her Nature Boardwalk at the Lincoln Park Zoo; and a 25-story housing project in Hyderabad, India, modeled on a traditional courtyard house of the region.

The daughter of a civil engineer, Gang has, in addition to her current and completed projects, produced such innovative concepts as a folding stadium that disappears when not in use, her entry for the 2004 Venice Biennale exhibition. With her architecture, she has said, she seeks to create structures with local identity that reverberate globally. Since 1999 she has served as an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her academic career also includes visiting professorships at the architecture schools of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

Gang is the first in the field to win a MacArthur Fellowship since Samuel Mockbee, who founded Auburn University's Rural Studio, received the award in 2000. Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, founders of the firm now known as Diller Scofidio + Renfro, won the award in 1999. Ada Louise Huxtable, the architectural critic and historian, received the fellowship in 1981, the first year it was awarded.

Read more about Gang's work here.