Architect Helmut Jahn (1940-2021) came to Chicago from Germany in 1966 to study under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Before finishing his degree, he took a job at C.F. Murphy Associates in 1967 and worked on several significant commercial and governmental projects, including McCormick Place in Chicago and the J Edgar Hoover Building (FBI Headquarters) in Washington, DC.
In 1981, C.F. Murphy Associates was renamed Murphy/Jahn. Under this new banner, Jahn led the design of several iconic buildings in Chicago including the United Terminal at O'Hare, 500 West Madison (former Citigroup Center), and the State of Illinois/James R. Thompson Center. The firm also expanded its work abroad with such lauded projects as Sony Center in Berlin and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
Jahn’s Thompson Center, completed in 1985, exhibits a Postmodern sense of playfulness with subtle references to the past and the future. Today, the building is the target of preservation efforts as the State of Illinois, its longtime owner, looks to sell it for redevelopment and possible demolition.
Jahn’s 50-year body of work demonstrates the influence of Mies – technical precision of materials, volumes enclosed by glass, expressed structure and lack of ornamentation – but lacks the rigid adherence to rectilinear forms.
In 2012 Murphy/Jahn became JAHN and remains a prolific architectural practice. The firm’s work spans the globe and is focused primarily on corporate and high-profile educational projects.