Helmut Jahn is a distinguished architect in Chicago and abroad. He has made his mark with many postmodern steel and glass structures, including McCormick Place, the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare Airport and the controversial Thompson Center.
Helmut moved from his native Germany to Chicago in the 1960s, to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He launched his career with C.F. Murphy Associates, which was renamed Murphy/Jahn in the 1980s and became JAHN in 2012.
How would you describe your current architectural style?
The goal was and is change—innovation and resources. If there is a change, it has been a focus on environmental and social issues.
Do you prefer to work on commercial buildings or residential buildings and why?
Residential buildings are in fact the most commercial today. They led to banal architecture instead of focusing on cities as growing places—especially for young populations—and providing affordable housing.
What excites you most about your newest project in Chicago, 1000M?
That it gets built!
What is your favorite Chicago building?
What is Chicago’s biggest built environment challenge?
Making Chicago a place where all levels of society can live and work.
If you could collaborate with any historic Chicago architect, who would it be and why?
Architects of reputation, past and present, don’t need to collaborate. They can do it!!
What project have you enjoyed working on most during your career thus far?
No one project. Most enjoyment comes from hoping and looking forward to the next one.
What is one project type you have not worked on yet, but would like to design?
A museum, concert hall or church.
If you were not an architect, what would you be?
I am very happy being an architect and don’t think about what else I could be.
Mies van der Rohe or Frank Lloyd Wright?