Helmut Jahn

Helmut Jahn



That so many architects aren’t prophets in their own land doesn’t necessarily mean they shall succeed abroad. A few, however, do manage to make the saying true, and become not just prophets but symbols of the architecture of their places of adoption. This was the case of Helmut Jahn, born in Nuremberg during World War II and trained at the Technische Universität München before emigrating in 1965 and completing his studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he settled for good. Mies’s influence is one of the keys to understand his buildings; the other would be the American tradition of skyscrapers and corporate buildings, and it was precisely this type of construction where Jahn reaped extraordinary success, updating types and models with formal refinement and constructive sophistication. Examples of this are key works like the elegant Xerox Center – reinterpretation of the curtain wall –, the modern United Airlines terminal of at O’Hare International Airport, or perhaps his most famous work: the Thompson Center, built in 1985. Jahn died on 9 May after being run over by a car while cycling near his Chicago home.

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